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RE: 70s Poll Countdown

 
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RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 10:47:37 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
22. Mean Streets



(1973; Martin Scorsese)
Highest Vote: Matty, Rawlinson

Mean Streets is the story of four Italian-American street punks. Charlie (Keitel) is involved in the local mob but his movement up the organization is hampered by his childish friend Johnny Boy (De Niro). Charlie is a debt-collector for his uncle, Giovanni. He's also having an affair with Johnny Boy's epileptic cousin, Teresa. Charlie is also a devout Catholic and he's torn between his Catholicism and his Mafia career. Michael (Romanus) is a wannabe big-shot at odds with Johnny Boy over money and Tony (Proval) is the calmer presence who owns their local bar. As Johnny Boy's self-destructive streak increases and Giovanni demands that Charlie becomes more professional, Charlie searches for redemption. Charlie is obsessed with the idea that any real salvation has to be found on the streets, because you atone for your sins where you commit them. But as much he seeks to follow a spiritual way of life, all he knows is the mob and as shown in an early scene, Charlie wants to see how close he can get to the flame before he burns.

Scorsese became a major talent with this film. Inspired by advice from John Cassavetes who told him to make films he wanted to make instead of just work for hire, Scorsese wrote this great personal film based on his youth in Little Italy and inspired by his love of Italian neorealism, especially I Vitelloni. Like I Vitelloni, the wasted potential of these characters is what drives the narrative. The characters are stunted adolescents, boys playing at men while avoiding any real responsibility. Johnny Boy is the most obviously juvenile, a childish, violent fool who thinks he can disrespect the others in his community and not pay for his sins. The characters aren't likable, they're racist, sexist, homophobic, violent idiots, but you still find yourself identifying with them and rooting for them, to break out of the cycle that has them trapped.

It's a gritty film, but one that can be joyous at times thanks to the great sense of humour and interplay between the cast. There's also Scorsese's incredible eye for small character moments that stops the whole thing seeming like it's posturing or simply more gangster-chic. Scorsese makes this so believable because he grew up with these people. Mean Streets also has possibly the greatest rock 'n' roll soundtrack of all time. The music actually works with the film so that the scenes become as iconic as the songs and the music feels like the songs that would soundtrack the lives of Charlie and Johnny Boy, rather than just a director shoehorning in their favourite groups. Mean Streets is raw, unpolished and intense, but it's also a blazing piece of cinema that heralded the arrival to greatness of possibly the finest American director of his generation. It's essential viewing.

- Rawlinson

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Post #: 121
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 10:49:06 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
21. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre



(1974; Tobe Hooper)
Highest Vote: Gimli

After hearing reports of grave-robbing near their parents old house, teenagers Sally and Franklin Hardesty and a group of their friends decide to drive out and inspect the damage, stopping along the way to check on their old family property. Despite being warned off by the gas station owner, and a disturbing encounter with a hitch-hiker, the teens carry on to the house, and that's when they discover Leatherface is waiting for them. Hooper saw the perverseness in the society around him and channelled that into his film, creating a slasher that feels like a documentary. Like many American horror films of its time, it was working out feelings about Vietnam. Taking inspiration from what Hooper saw as the callousness and graphic nature of news reports about a war that saw the government willing to let its teenagers be treated as completely disposable. This was mixed in with stories about the serial killer Ed Gein and a mocking approach to the notion of the traditional male-dominated family unit to create a dark and perverse film that relies more on atmosphere than jump scares or gore. It's a raw experience, unrelenting and gruelling, Hooper managed to create something that set new standards for intensity in horror cinema and it's that intensity that feeds into the claustrophobic atmosphere, continually building to the point where even the moments of outright violence aren't a cathartic release, they're just more pressure. It's the ultimate backwoods horror film.

- Rawlinson

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Post #: 122
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 10:51:33 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
20. Aguirre, Wrath of God



(1972; Werner Herzog)
Highest Vote: Garviel

Aguirre is the story of the doomed expedition of the conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro, who in the 16th century led a group of men into the Peruvian rain forest to try and find El Dorado, the mythical lost city of gold. When Pizarro thinks the expedition is failing, he picks a smaller group to explore further up-river. If they fail too, the attempt will be abandoned. The party is led by Don Pedro de Ursua with Aguirre (Kinski) as second-in-command. At the first opportunity Aguirre stages a mutiny, establishes a puppet leader in de Guzman and uses him to command the party. With an unstable system of power, with only the vision of gold as a reward. Guzman proves as bad a choice for leader as Ursua. Supplies dwindle and the men exist on little food, as they travel further down the river, El Dorado fails to appear and attacks from the natives, starvation and insanity appear to be the only reward they'll get from their expedition.

Filmed on location in Peru, The filming of Aguirre is almost as legendary as the film itself. Herzog and his actors went into a jungle and the shoot broke down to the extent that is it rumoured that Kinski wanted to quit Herzog held a gun to Kinski's head to force him to act. While there's no doubt that the shoot was tumultuous, but if anything it aided Kinski. Kinski's performance is possibly his finest, it certainly rivals Woyzeck/Fitzcarraldo for that title. Kinski's Aguirre is an intense man, bestial, ferocious, a force of nature driven into destruction by his own hubris. Kinski feels like Aguirre so much that the line between artist and performer seems more blurred here than in any of his other work.

Rather than filling the film with action for the sake of action, Herzog is willing to take a more measured pace to Aguirre. In doing so he produces something authentic yet harrowing, capturing what life would have been like for these conquistadors. Even though Herzog creates something that feels realistic, it's filled with visually stunning, surreal touches, such as Kinski floating along on a raft filled with monkeys. There's a theme here that turns up in so many Herzog films, that of someone who has a vision and has to try and reach it, no matter what the consequences may be. Herzog is a true visionary and this is one of cinema's great insane triumphs, from one of its great insane directors.

- Rawlinson

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Post #: 123
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 10:57:24 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
19. The Godfather



(1972; Francis Ford Coppola)
Highest Vote: Spectator of Suicide

"I believe in America". The screen fades from black into the face of Bonasera, who delivers his monologue with the most sincere pathos. In front of him sits Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), the head of the two Corleone-families (one legal and one equally troubling). So begins one of the most classic movies ever made. Has any other film aged so well? 35 years after its release, Francis Ford Coppola's epic is still as engaging and watch-able as it was in 1972 (if not actually more). One might ask how it is possible to write a review worth reading about this movie, considering how many keys have been pushed and pens been broken to write about it before. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I will attempt to do what most people have already spent a lot of time doing, almost to the point of tiredness. I am going to praise The Godfather. A lot.

One of the things I have grown tired of reading, is the phrase that seems to pop in almost every review of Goodfellas: "The Godfather is too operatic, Scorsese's film is more about the small guys". Yes, that's true, but it's missing the point. It's like saying an orange is better than bananas because it is more orange. Is the film too operatic? Is it making the mafia out to be something else than it really is? Is it glorifying crime? Only the subjective individual can answer these questions. Some point out that most gangsters never make it as far as the Corleones. Yes, mob-life is probably not all it's cracked up to be, but someone's going to run the show, right? Attacking The Godfather for concentrating on the leaders, a minority in a crime syndicate, is like saying a movie about the president should focus on the cleaning lady. Coppola is telling a tale of power and the subsequent abuse that often comes with that power. It shows how expressions like "family", "respect" and "honor" become excuses for inciting violence against one's own kin. It shows the descent from a man who was once destined for great things, but who blew it all away, because he couldn't resist the call from his family. Then again, can any?

That man is Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). It is he, and not the godfather in the title, who is the main character of the movie. At first he wants nothing to do with his father's business. "That's my family, Kay, not me", he tells his girlfriend (Diane Keaton). Oh, but it is you. You are just not seeing it yet. How Michael makes his descent is too familiar for fans of the film and too much of a spoiler for people who haven't seen the movie to explain, so I will try avoid too much mentioning of the plot. Then again, this doesn't matter, as the true power of The Godfather lies in its rich characters. Despite the fact that there are quite a large gallery of present human beings in this film, the narrative oddly enough never feels fractured. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they are not all given equal weight, seeing how much of the film is focused on Michael. But thanks to some great writing by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo (or just Coppola, as legend will have it) plus some fantastic acting from a fantastic cast (they call them The Godfather-generation, after all), the film is able to play full song without missing a single beat beat, giving life to all characters, even those who only appear for a brief amount of time.

What a perfect film this is. The aforemented story, characters and acting are of course spectacular. But what about the music? Nino's Rota is one of the best ever written, and has produced not one, but three memorable themes (including the Waltz, "Speak Softly Love" and Michael's theme). "Haunting" would be an understatement. Gordon Willis' cinematography has also become legendary, almost to the point where people started joking that his work in this film introduced the color black to cinema (okay, not true, but it was a good line). Still, his use of darkness in this film is not to be joked around with, as it truly shows how effective underexposure can be. The set design of the film is also marvelous, and the fact that the executives tried to convince Coppola to film in a modern day-setting just shows how stupid some people really are. With all these praises being worthy of the film, one might wonder if it is actually easier to find flaws with the films. Think again. This is one of the few perfect movies ever made, and the only reason it isn't higher in the list is simply because of personal preferences. People talk of Citizen Kane being the best movie ever made, but it is easy to forget the movie that is always chasing its tail. That film is The Godfather. When someone said that every film-fan should see this movie, that person was not joking. Watch it, enjoy it, or await your fate. They are still waiting by the tollbooth.

- Dantes Inferno.

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Post #: 124
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:00:35 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
18. Assault on Precinct 13



(1976; John Carpenter)
Highest Vote: Rhubarb

It's the last day for the old Anderson precinct, a small South Central Los Angeles police station. Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Stoker) has been left in charge of the precinct during its last few hours. All the other cops have gone to their new post, except for a skeleton staff of officer Chaney and secretaries Leigh and Julie. They're expecting a quiet last day, but events conspire against them. A prison bus is forced to stop at the station to seek medical help for one of the prisoners. Among the convicts being transported is Napoleon Wilson (Joston), a highly intelligent killer. Meanwhile, one of the LA gangs has recently stolen a shipment of firearms. Following a exchange of fire with LAPD, the gangs swear vengeance against the city. A gang member shoots a little girl while buying an ice cream (still a shocking scene even now, although one that provoked stunned laughter the first time I saw it), her father kills the murderer and then finds himself hunted down by the gang members. He just happens to run to the Anderson precinct. The gang surround the precinct, cutting the phone lines and opening fire whenever someone steps outside. Soon, half of the small group will be dead and cop and convict will have to join forces to defeat the outside threat.

There's something distressing on a deeper level about this kind of film, when the gangs go wild, the police are supposed to protect the public, but what happens when the police are the ones being terrorised? Like many of Carpenter's films, it's essentially an ode to Rio Bravo, it also helps set many of the themes for future Carpenter's work, the heroes as morally ambiguous badasses, stuck in isolation and being stalked by a seemingly inhuman threat. It's as raw and gritty as they come, the rough edges betraying the low budget, but adding to the authenticity of the film. Despite it seeming like a modern day western, it's a film that fits perfectly alongside Carpenter's later horror work. The nihilism of the piece, the unrelenting enemy, it could be Night of the Living Dead in a police station. Carpenter makes excellent use of his limited locations, trapping the characters and creating an incredible sense of isolation and tension. Assault is a masterpiece of economy, the dialogue tells us just what we need to know to create strong characters. Anything that's unnecessary doesn't make the cut, with the script relying on behavioural tics to demonstrate character instead of lengthy speeches. The performances are better than you might expect from such low budget roots, with Stoker and Joston in particular turning in strong work. One of the best examples of what low budget cinema is capable of, and a masterpiece from the period when Carpenter was one of the greatest directors in the world.

- Rawlinson

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Post #: 125
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:06:11 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
17. The Exorcist



(1973; William Friedkin)
Highest Vote: Rhubarb

"Your mother sucks cocks in hell" Who knew Regan was the first Empire poster?

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Post #: 126
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:09:27 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
16. The French Connection



(1971; William Friedkin)
Highest Vote: Matty

The French Connection made all other police thrillers before it look tame and sanitised, and established the template of how police thrillers have looked since then. From Narc on the big screen, to the desolate urban landscapes and drug-ravaged communities of The Wire - all owe a big, fat debt to Friedkin's intense and pulsating film. Narcotic cops Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) are on the trail of international drug smuggler Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) who is planning on smuggling $32m worth of heroin into the United States. Friedkin disregards the usual black and white morals associated with the genre, uproots his camera and sticks it, and the audience, right into the dirty and ugly world of the war on drugs. This New York is not the beautiful and cinematic city we're used to, it's a precursor of the New York that Travis Bickle would cruise through, seedy, grotty and home to urban violence and degradation - the perfect place in fact, for Charnier to infiltrate. The film is shot with a scuzzy cinematography as Doyle and Russo frequent strip clubs and grubby bars to chase down their leads, but Friedkin laces the film with a mordant sense of humour. When we first see Doyle he's disguised as a Santa Claus collecting for charity before bursting into violent action to take down a suspect. Doyle is not the type of cop we're expecting, either - beating the crap out of suspects, racist, sexist, but utterly committed to the cause, he's the type of cop we don't like, but suspect we need. Using his own bizarre slang to bemuse and harass his suspects - "Do you pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?" - Hackman is wonderful, a real tough nut inhabited with a touch of the devil in him, most clearly seen in the celebrated sequence of Doyle chasing a suspect on a train by following him in a car. It careers along streets, smashing into others and narrowly avoiding apparently genuine passer-bys. It's a brutal, invigorating sequence, in a brutal and invigorating film. This film is one that seperates the men from the boys, and one that sends a jolt of black coffee straight into your veins and the authenticity of it all is tangible. Friedkin doesn't tie everything up neatly, either, opening and ending the films with events that only suggest at the wider picture that he drops us into. "This is how it is", he seems to be saying, "this is how dirty and impossible the job is. So don't judge." Every other cop film after it still bows down before it.

- Matty

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Post #: 127
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:12:14 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
15. The Godfather Part II



(1974; Francis Ford Coppola)
Highest Vote: Spectator of Suicide

As far as The Godfather goes, every cool kid prefers part II to the original, and for good reason, as it has become the archetypical sequel, the one that every follow-up in Hollywood hopes it can match. That its copycats frequently fail to live up to it, is just another testament to the power of Francis Ford Coppola, who here crafted a film more than worthy of its original, and who justifiably took home the award for Best Director at the 1975 Oscars. Some might say that Chinatown was the best film from 1974, but in my opinion, not even that film's haunting final line can compete with the silence that closes Coppola's masterpiece. It is perfectly understandable how some people can prefer the original, but to me, there is not a moment's doubt which one I like best. Okay, maybe a moment, but not much more. The Godfather, Part II is a more powerful film than the original. It is bigger, more complex, more hard-hitting, and least but not least, it's better.

What is so great about this film is that it actually enhances your viewing pleasure of the original. Many of the smaller characters, particularly Fredo (John Cazale), Connie (Talia Shire) and Kay (Diane Keaton), are given more screen-time in part II, which works to great effect, because the knowledge we gain of them here helps us appreciate them more in the first film, even though their screen-time hasn't been increased at all. But even if the supporting characters are given room aplenty to grow, this is still the story of Michael (Al Pacino), who continues his descent into despair. Pacino is really excellent here, and it is shame that neither of his two acting-nominations as Michael went rewarded. What is really impressive about his performance is how the audience completely fails to notice how much of a changed man he has become. It is not until that final flashback in the last scene that we realize just how evil he is, and much of that credit goes to Pacino. His career may be a running joke now, but thanks to this film, his talent will never be forgotten. The same goes for Robert De Niro, who delivers his first Academy Award-winning performance as the young Vito Corleone. It has been said that the lack of Vito was one of the biggest flaws of part III, and I see no flaw in that theory. While the character's passing in the first chapter is always one to be mourned (along with Marlon Brando's fantastic portrayal of him), Coppola more than makes up for it here, as we are presented with a much more exciting set-up in the film's unchronological narrative.

As many of you probably already know, The Godfather, Part II is both a sequel and a prequel to the first film, as it continues the story of Michael while at the same time showing us the origin of his father. This is not unnecessary padding to an already long story, but a brilliant examination and comparison between two men at the same age. This set-up adds more resonance to the story, as we really learn how different Vito and Michael are. While Vito rises from poverty to become a dangerous, but respected mobster, Michael falls more and more into his own grave, one he fails to notice has been dug by no one but himself. That he blames his misfortune on everyone else is a given, but what I never really noticed while watching the films was how concealed Michael is. He never shares his inner thoughts, and few opinions are spoken of him (who would dare to?). That we know what he fails and why he does the things he does despite of the mystery in his character is a testament to both Coppola and Pacino. Much of what happens in The Godfather, Part II is shrouded in the dark (both literally and abstractly), as we actually get to know very little about, well, everything. Michael's business with Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) is curiously swept to the sides, and the plot becomes extremely confusing as Michael's statements to the various people he meets changes by the person. Even on repeated viewings, it is still hard to understand what Michael is up to, but it always become miraculously clear in the end, as he once again gets rid of all enemies. This denouement mirrors the one in first film, but that one was different, because the lines between ally and foe was more clear. When he has murders Fredo by the end of part II, everybody knows he has made a mistake. Who disagreed with the killing of Barzini in the first film? Michael may have been a dangerous man when he shut the doors on Kay, but that is nothing compared to the creature he is at the end of this film.

As I previously mentioned, The Godfather, Part II is a better film than its predecessor, but it is not less flawed. That might seem to be a contradiction, but give me a chance to explain myself. Yes, there are many flaws to the movie. I still don't know why Hyman Roth wants Michael dead, and I certainly don't know why he tries to cut a deal with him (if anyone knows, don't hold back). Yes, the flaws are more frequent than those in the first film, but at the same time, the sequel has so much more going for it. Sure, Marlo Brando and James Caan are gone, but many are still here. And that's not just talking about the cast. Nino Rota and Gordon Willis return to provide the film's aural and visual cues, with the same excellence as before (The Godfather-films may very well be among the best-looking and best-sounding films ever made). New faces are also worthy of acclaim, particularly De Niro and Strasberg, and Coppola's own father Carmine, who provides additional music to the film's score. All these ingredients ensure that the film becomes a true challenger to its predecessor's throne. In the end, there are always opinions about preference. Some people like apples better than oranges. Some people like red better than blue. Some people like The Godfather, Part II better than The Godfather. Now, unlike Kurt Russell in Death Proof, I don't actually have a book, but if I did, I would put these people down as "approved".

- Dantes Inferno.

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Post #: 128
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:14:51 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
14. Dawn of the Dead



(1978; George A. Romero)
Highest Vote: WifeofRaw

The recently deceased are returning to life and the stability of the United States is under threat. Four people-Fran a worker in a TV station which is giving out wrong information, her boyfriend Stephen a helicopter pilot, and two SWAT troopers Roger and Peter who have just escaped from a bloody battle in a tenement building, decide to escape in Stephen’s helicopter. When they find a large shopping mall, they decide to hole up inside it for a while, even though the mall is full of shambling zombies who as people spent a great part of their lives there and are half remembering their human lives………

George Romero’s masterpiece Dawn Of The Dead is in my opinion the greatest of zombie films and one of the greatest post-apocalpytic films too, so I imagine this review will be longer than than those of the other Dead series. It was the first one I saw and in the mid 80s I couldn’t get enough of it’s mixture of hair-raising action, bloody horror, nail-biting suspense, social satire and character drama where I actually really liked the characters and I had really got to know them. Although Night Of The Living Dead had been a big success, Romero and his crew had never made much money from it and his other films, whilst often interesting [such as Martin] had not done well at all, so he decided to revisit zombies. He wrote the script in Italy with help from Dario Argento and the resulting film was produced by both Romero’s and Argento’s companies, with Argento retaining final cut for the Italian version. Though a ‘bigger’ film than the previous Dead opus, it was still a very cheap production and corners had to be cut constantly, with for example almost all the stunts done by two people, Tom Savini the effects person and his buddy. Filmed at the Monroeville Mall at night time, it was released in the US without a rating because, although it was too graphic for an R rating, an X rating at the time was synonimous with explicit sex. Unsurprisingly, in the UK it lost almost four minutes-in the 80s I remember being really frustrated by the fact that a book on horror films I had, had two stills from the film depicting shots, one of a head exploding and one of a machete cleaving a head in two, that weren’t in the video I owned. [Also Romero's next zombie opus Day Of The Dead didn't have much of it's gruesome delights cut at all when it came out in 1985, but the BBFC were so inconsistent with horror films around then]. Of course it’s uncut now, but for a budding horror fan in the 80s there was nothing more exciting than obtaining an uncut bootleg video copy of a censored or banned horror movie, and it wasn’t long I got to see Dawn Of The Dead with all of it’s flesh ripping and blood spraying intact!

Like it’s predecessor, Dawn Of The Dead gets underway immediately, with chaos in a TV station and SWAT troopers blowing refugees away and then finding zombies in a basement. We are quickly introduced to our four main characters with brief but very clever scriptwriting that tells us what they are like and differentiates their characters without the need for lengthy dialogue scenes. Once they reach the mall, we are treated to a thrilling series of action scenes in and around the mall, as our protagonists get supplies and strengthen their position. When these end, the pace becomes quite slow, but far from becoming boring, the montages and scenes of them just sitting around work brilliantly, not only as a respite from the last hour or so but in really giving us a sense of what their life is like and also in developing character, as each person reacts to their environment in a different way. I find really touching a scene where Peter cooks and serves Fran and Stephen a romantic dinner and Peter proposes, only for Fran to refuse Peter’s ring saying “it wouldn’t be real”. Importantly, the tension never really goes away, and then we are treated to a really crazy climax, a kind of three way battle between our heroes, the zombies and a motorbike gang. This brilliant sequence dares to be very humorous at first, but soon blood gags and pies in faces turn into intestine pulling and flesh eating. SPOILERS Dawn Of The Dead was originally supposed to end in as bleak a way as Night Of The Living Dead, with Peter shooting himself and Fran decapitating herself by helicopter rota blades, but Christine Forrest, Romero’s wife talked the director into allowing them to escape.SPOILERS END Considering that, in contrast with the first film’s realistic feel, this one was more comic book like and satirical, it was the right decision.

The way the zombies are handled is very interesting. First of all, in the tenement building they are extremely dangerous, but after one poor undead has his scalp sliced off when he walks into spinning rota blades, they start to be seen in a more humorous light. The comment on consumerism, as the zombies are drawn to the shopping mall and behave not unlike us, is about as subtle as a brick, but we almost start to feel pity for these cannibalistic monsters. In one scene we see a zombie woman being mugged by humans for her jewellery! It’s also notable that, apart from the first and last fifteen or twenty minutes, most of the gore is of the zombies. The violence in the movie, whilst usually graphic, also changes. During the opening tenement battle, it hits us in the head as troopers blow heads apart, a woman greets her undead husband and has skin ripped from her neck and arm in return, and in one really gruesome scene, a basement is full of zombies chewing on arms and legs and Roger and Peter dispose of them all. Afterwards though, it gets more comic book like and even blackly humorous. Zombies are used as target practice. An undead handyman gets a screwdriver rammed up his ear. Romero even gets away with zombies receiving pies in the face, but things return to get nasty in the climax. The zombie cannibalism, which utilised cow intestines, was the goriest yet seen [though Romero topped it with Day Of The Dead] and Tom Savini’s homemade effects remain pretty convincing, with the camera not dwelling on them for too long to show any weaknesses. Savini actually wasn’t much pleased with the slightly fluorescent looking blood and offered to redo many scenes, but Romero said it suited the comic book feel he was going for. The blue tone of many of the zombie’s faces doesn’t work so well, but it was originally grey and just didn’t photograph very well. Although this doesn’t very often try to be scary, unlike the proceeding film, there is the odd shivery moment, such as when a corpse comes to life under a blanket, with the camera remaining in one position from a fair distance away as we observe something beneath the blanket stirring. As it sits up and the blanket starts to slide off the zombie, we cut to a close up of a really creepy zombie face.

The acting by all four leads in this movie is remarkable considering they were unknowns and there are no other major roles in the film. Scott H.Reiniger is especially good when his character Roger is going a little gung-ho crazy and Gaylen Ross successfully differentiates Fran from Night Of The Living Dead’s Barbara even though she’s very similarly written. Generally the writing is superb and often very subtle is showing character. One shot of Stephen and Fran in bed, Stephen lying down trying to be relaxed, Fran sitting up looking very apprehensive, tells you all you need to know about their relationship at this stage in the film. The music of Dawn Of The Dead is a combination of throbbing tracks by Argento’s favourite group Goblin and library music, but works surprisingly well, with the library tracks very diverse, ranging from deliberately irritating shopping mall muzak to atonal suspense cues. I noticed, on this viewing, one track near the end also turned up in Monty Python and The Holy Grail and it kind of took me out of the film for a minute! The only time the music doesn’t work that well is where a cheesy heroic anthem is played over Peter’s dash for freedom-it just doesn’t work. Considering that the film has almost wall to wall music and comes from a variety of sources, it’s rarely really intrusive.

Dawn Of The Dead exists in three versions, this review is mostly based on a viewing of the 139 minute extended version which is my favourite, due to the added scenes featuring Fran, Stephen, Roger and Peter carrying out their life in the mall, but the other two versions are just as noteworthy and I happily enjoy them too. The original cut was almost three hours, from which Romero and Argento edited their separate versions. The 139 minute cut was Romero’s first attempt but he subsequently created the 126 minute version from it for general release and is his preferred edit. The 120 minute Argento version, which is called Zombie, has a soundtrack entirely consisting of music from Goblin, has a slightly different feel from the other two versions, it removes most of the humour and feels a bit more like a straight action movie, but I love it all the same as an alternative version. Both the Argento cut and the extended cut have bits and pieces that the other one doesn’t have, and fans have supposedly cut together so-called ‘full’ versions lasting 156 and 154 minutes, but considering the bewildering amount of editorial and musical differences any editor would have to consider, I reckon they would be a nightmare to attempt.

Few films are perfect and Dawn Of The Dead is weakened a little by being overly repetitive at times [I mean , how many zombie heads are shot?] and as said before by social comment that is obvious to the point of being childlike. In any version though, it remains a classic, a glorious vision of an America consumed by it’s own appetites. It success was especially strong in Italy, where it inspired a wave of gory zombie flicks ranging from good [Zombie, which was released as Zombie 2 in Italy to pretend it was a sequel to Romero's movie] to pretty dreadful [Zombie Creeping Flesh], and in 2004 there was a rather good remake which many people believe bettered the original. To me, though, I think it’s doubtful there will ever be a better zombie picture than the original Dawn Of The Dead.

- Dr Lenera

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Post #: 129
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:16:26 AM   
rawlinson

 

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13. A Clockwork Orange



(1971; Stanley Kubrick)
Highest Vote: Rhubarb

One of the most notorious films of my childhood, thanks to Kubrick removing the film from circulation in the UK, I'd read about it in numerous books before I ever had the chance to see it. Finally got to see it thanks to a school-friend's pirate copy in the mid 90s, A Clockwork Orange lived up to my expectations, but I was still shocked at just how cold and clinical it was. Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is the teenage leader of a street gang that spends its time looking for other gangs to fight and women to rape. Alex eventually ends up in prison and made the subject of a new brainwashing technique that makes him sick at the thought of sex or violence, but is this cure just as inhuman as Alex's initial behaviour? And is good behaviour worth anything when it's imposed, rather than the result of someone's free will? Adapted from Anthony Burgess' novel, and keeping in place the unique slang he invented, A Clockwork Orange is an overpowering experience, both disturbing and beguiling. Kubrick's view of a dystopian future remains unsettling and McDowell's performance one that both repulses and seduces the viewer. A work of genius.

- Rawlinson

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RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:17:55 AM   
rawlinson

 

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12. Chinatown



(1974; Roman Polanski)
Highest Vote: Fritzlfan

Robert Towne's intricately plotted, labyrinthine detective story is set in L.A. during the drought of 37. Jake Gittes (Nicholson) is a tactless private detective, hired for an adultery investigation by Evelyn Mulwray. Her husband Hollis is head of the water department and Jake takes photos of Hollis with a young girl. The story makes the news and Jake finds he was scammed. Evelyn was an imposter and it was a plan to discredit Hollis. The real Evelyn (Dunaway), daughter of Noah Cross (Huston) a former business partner of Hollis threatens a law suit. And then Hollis is found dead and Evelyn hires Jake to find the killer, believing it to be her father. Hollis and Noah had a falling out over the water rights, Hollis felt that the public should control the water rights. Jake's investigation leads him into physical danger and to the revelation of darker and more disturbing secrets than he imagined.

Chinatown is one of the finest modern noir films and much of the acclaim for that deserves to go to Robert Towne. His script is one of the finest to come from American cinema. The script provides us with a tightly constructed and complex murder investigation that not only gives us with a real mystery, but it populates its world with well-drawn characters of real depth. Of course a great script is no good without a great director and performances. Polanski is at the top of his game here, a real compliment considering how much I admire his work in general. Polanski realises the story is the star and he focuses his energy on telling us the tale. He's aided by the gorgeous production design and cinematography that help to recreate the period. As for the performances, they're note perfect. Nicholson is at the height of his powers, shortly before he'd spend over two decades on wasted, bombastic work. Huston is chilling as Noah Cross. And Dunaway, often a lazy actress, pushes herself to a top level performance.

Noir is often a genre where people are shown to hide in the shadows. In Chinatown everything is bathed in brilliant sunlight, yet people still find places to hide their darkest secrets. Chinatown shows you a city where human nature is debased and corruption has set in at every level, from politics to the family.

- Rawlinson

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RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:20:07 AM   
rawlinson

 

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11. Monty Python and the Life of Brian



(1979; Terry Jones)
Highest Vote: Rhubarb

When I posted my review for Holy Grail one or two people said that, while they enjoyed it, they thought Life of Brian was superior. I had a little laugh with myself, thinking, "a ha, me too! But they don't know that!". I'm easily amused. Which, incidentally, has more than a little to do with my love for this film. For when a comedy of this quality comes along, it's hard not to be amused. In the running for the title of My Favourite Comedy Ever, Life of Brian is a hysterical heretical (not blasphemous, as is often presumed) trip through an alternative biblical tale. Having grown up in a particularly Christian household, I am at least thankful for the biblical knowledge garnered during this time to further deepen my appreciation for this masterpiece.

So, why when Holy Grail has the bigger number of laughs, as I think I said in the review of said film, do I consider Life of Brian superior? The main reason is that these are to be considered as films, and as such need to work as films. Holy Grail, for all its multitude genius, comes across as a series of vignettes in much the same way as the series did. There is a very loose connection, as the picaresque adventures of King Arthur and his Knights unfold, but the film suffers from a lack of focus (which, thankfully, does not impact the humour, hence its deserving place in my list). Life of Brian however brings together a series of on-the-nose jokes into a very real, and very
topical story that is self-contained and referential, if not reverential. What we have is the story of a man who was born at the same time as Jesus, and the events of his life. He falls in with the People's Front of Judea (or the Judean People's Front, I always get the two confused so) and their chaotic terrorist activities against the establishment ("what have they ever done for us?"), gets an impromptu lesson in Latin (which still sends shivers down my spine at the memory of Latin lessons), and attends a gathering where cheesemakers are to be blesséd. Little vignettes pepper the film, such as Brian's attempt to buy a beard but, "won't 'aggle", the stoning itself, the ex-leper ("there's no pleasing some people", which is apparently just what Jesus said) the whole Welease Woderick scene, along with guest appearance by Biggus Dickus, and much, much more. What we get is a seriously funny film with some outlandish humour that digs not at God Himself, but at the organised religion that sadly surrounds Him. The scenes as the crowd ignore anything he says to the contrary with Catch-22-style arguments, worship his sandal, and start an alternative religion around Brian are absolutely stupendous in their frightening accuracy. And all the funnier for it.

In a sense it's sad that the Pythons had to grow up and do documentaries, travelogues, more straight acting, and such like. Indeed, Terry Gilliam, the least vocal Python on account of his non-British accent, is still truest to those roots, making films as crazy as anything he drew in his time with the Pythons. However, this is their legacy. Several excellent TV series, radio shows, and four films of varying quality of which Life of Brian is the pinnacle. If you have yet to see this, and (hopefully figuratively) pee your pants at the humour, then you're a lucky, lucky bastard. If you have seen this and loved it, then, well, I guess you're lucky too. You win either way - which is what happens when you always look on the bright side of life*.

*hands up who started whistling then? Eh?

- Homer

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Post #: 132
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:38:08 AM   
rawlinson

 

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10. The Wicker Man



(1973; Robin Hardy)
Highest Vote: WifeofRaw

On the Western Isles of Scotland lies Summerisle, a small island soon to be visited by a mainland police officer, Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) Howie has received a letter claiming that a 12 year old girl is due to be sacrificed in a Pagan fertility rite by the islanders. He flies to the island to find the missing girl, Rowan, only to find the community deny all knowledge of her existence. The community is led by Lord Summerisle (Lee), a witty and charming man who just happens to be represent everything Howie despises. He has rejected Christianity in favour of the old ways and he encourages his islanders to follow his example. The clash of beliefs between Howie and Summerisle provides one of the key themes of The Wicker Man, the idea that any religion can be dangerous when taken to extremes. Howie finds his aircraft damaged and he is stuck on the island, caught in a mystery he can't comprehend with people he won't even try to understand.

The islanders believe in open sexuality, something that greatly offends Howie. The inn-keeper's daughter, Willow (Britt Ekland) is sexually available, initiating a teenage boy into sex, revelling in a bawdy song 'The Landlord's Daughter' that the men of the village sing for her. She even tries to seduce Howie in one of the film's most memorable scenes, where she dances naked, thrusting her body against the wall that separates them while singing the haunting 'Willow's Song'. Howie refuses because his religion forbids pre-marital sex. The school teacher devotes lessons to phallic symbols, people have sex in the open and young virgins leap naked through flames as part of a fertility dance.

Howie finds the islanders beliefs an insult to his Christian background and his disdain towards them leads him deeper into trouble. Howie is priggish and unsympathetic, but he's on the side of right, at least as far as trying to help a girl who may be in danger. He's both devout Christian and sexually repressed virgin and he thinks the practices of the island are Paganistic, causing him to look down on the islanders, he makes his disgust evident at every turn. Forgetting that while he may be the police, he is also the outsider. He isolates himself through religious attitude, social attitude, sexual repression and his own arrogance. One of the most memorable aspects of The Wicker Man is the way it blurs the lines between good and evil and turns the usual code of horror morality on its head. Here the person who refuses to have promiscuous sex is punished for doing so. In the world of The Wicker Man, virginity is not a virtue.

Anthony Shaffer's Chinese puzzle box of a script mixes a mystery with Pagan rituals and a sense of creeping dread to create one of the most accomplished horror films of all time. For a long time The Wicker Man was an overlooked cult film, but in recent years it's started to get rehabilitated and accepted as a classic but the mainstream. Of course this has led to people who look down on horror rushing to tell you this isn't a horror film, it's a thriller or a 'gothic mystery'. Ignore them. It's horror through and through.

The Wicker Man has an incredible location, fantastic Celtic music, a superb ensemble cast that includes career-best performances from both Lee and Woodward and it's an intelligent and frightening piece of cinema. It also has the greatest and bleakest ending of all time. Most people with even the slightest familiarity with the film are aware of the ending and as such it could lose its power for some, but for me it still has a crushing, heartbreaking inevitability and it's a perfect example of the kind of power that cinema is capable of when it's at its very best.

- Rawlinson

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Post #: 133
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:39:52 AM   
rawlinson

 

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9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail



(1975; Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones)
Highest Vote: Rebel Scum

King Arthur of the Britons (Graham Chapman), along with his faithful knights or the round table (the rest of them), has been entrusted by God with the quest for the Holy Grail. It's a quest that will take them to the far reaches of Britain, to Tim the Enchanter and to the bridge of death, through talk of unladen swallows and silly Camelot. The first real Python feature film, "Holy Grail” is a great follow-up to Flying Circus in that it operates a similar stream of consciousness concept. Obviously, there's a narrative present here to tie it all together, but it's such a loose narrative that at times the thing can feel like a series of sketches featuring recurring characters. Obviously, the nature of this leads to the film being a little inconsistent (the scene in the Castle Anthrax is the weakest of the film, and the Pythons know it, asking us if we think it should have been cut), but when it's good it's really, really good. It's hard to talk about this film without it becoming a list of the funniest, most irreverent bits, and so I'll just conform to this whole heartedly; the opening credits, the encounter with the Black Knight, the Camelot song, the Knights Who Say 'Ni', the bloodbath courtesy of Lancelot, and so many more brilliantly Pythonesque moments sit amongst the funniest movie moments of all time, and the fact that it was done on such a shoe string budget makes it all-the-more impressive. The rickety aesthetics just add to it, giving the film a kitsch feel that, no doubt, directors Jones (who introduced the film at the showing I went to last night) and Gilliam fully intended. The genius of the rest of the film certainly outweigh the few out-of-place flat bits, but "Holy Grail” is still only the second best Python film. That's hardly an insult, though, is it?

- Homer

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RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:41:24 AM   
rawlinson

 

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8. Halloween



(1978; John Carpenter)
Highest Vote: Rhubarb

We start with a perfect score. A haunting theme in which we are greeted to a lit pumpkin that stands proud in front of a black background! Its an eerie set-piece, a credit sequence that sums up the entire mood of the film. As the big yellow words appear on screen, the camera slowly strolls towards the pumpkin, until we get to the final moments and we reach the left eye and then the light goes out and its all dark! Its a sequence that perfectly sets up the mood of the film, a sense of dread and fear in which it goes from light to dark, something is coming, something evil, and no one is going to stop it.

The Success of Suspira and everything Giallo had Irwin Yablan desperate to make a horror movie that would be talked about for years. He came up with a concept that had babysitters being targeted by a killer and with Financer Moustapha Akkad in tow, they went to the Milan Film Festival to promote a certain film called Assault On Precinct 13, directed by an up coming director by the name of John Carpenter. There, Yablan met a man named Michael Myers whom on watching Assault, fell in love with the film and agreed to put the film into film festivals all over Europe! During this time, Yablan, had a crazy idea, one he could not shake, about babysitters being stalked and killed by this unknown force of evil. To be called The Babysitter Murder, it was an idea that did not stretch to much, and even though he suggested the notion to Carpenter, it seemed to lack a bite, something was missing and Carpenter went on to film a TV movie. It was the ending of that directing gig, when Carpenter had the call that would change his life! Yablan just could not forget about this horror and one night it just struck him, holding the phone and speaking to Carpenter, he suggested that they should set the film on the night of Halloween, and even call the film that! A rocket of explosions went off in the head of the young director, that lack of something had just been added, and the greatest horror franchise of all time had just been born!!!!

Made for a partly £300,000, in which Carpenter took a deal for ten percent of the film profits, in which he also wrote the film score, the idea from the off was not to make a film soaked in bloodbath. What they wanted was to create a film that would scare the audience, there was no need for the gore that the later many imitators would introduce, there was a need to soak the film full of tension and dread, there was this evil that this town tried to keep secret, but now that secret was out and was returning home. The town in question was Haddonfield, the name taken from an actual town in New Jersey. Carpenter and his then girlfriend Debra Hill who produced the film, were told by Yablan that "less was better" and that it was required that the audience did not see anything, it is as I quote "It should be what they thought they saw that frightens them!"

Ann Lockhart was Carpenter's original choice to play the film's scream queen Laurie, but was persuaded to cast a then unknown Jamie Lee Curtis with the added bonus that she would bring a much needed boast of publicity because of her mother Janet Leigh the woman who forever be in horror folklore as the woman who checked into Bates Motel. Other casting came in the form of Donald Pleasence who became Dr Sam Loomis (the name a nod to a character on Psycho), after both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee rejected the role ( a move that Lee later regretted) while Nick Castle was signed on to play The Shape, a figure that would terror the horror circles thirty years later.

Halloween was shot in mere 21 days in the Spring of 1978, even though the film was supposed to be set in Autumn. The common mistake of Halloween is that when the film tracks down a long street, we see leaves scattered all over the floor (they were put there) while the trees themselves are full and green, its only a minor point, but now knowing that information you can not help but notice on each watch. When it was released, it started off slowly, Carpenter went off to direct Elvis, and no-one expected much, maybe a moderate hit, but nothing special or big. They were wrong, word of mouth began to develop and soon the film went big, raking
over £60 Million from a budget of £300,000 and making it the most successful independent film of all time, only to be beaten twenty one years later by a certain witch in the woods that went by the name of Blair!

Right from the off we are treated to a POV shot of a mad man at work. Like a Peeping Tom we see a person watching a young couple make out on a sofa before running upstairs to make love, a scene by the way that is the only part that makes me cringe. I would love to meet John Carpenter and ask him just one question, "Was the Sex scene an in-joke!". We see the young couple run upstairs but we stay with this person who slowly enters the house, reaches for a very sharp kitchen knife and then go to the bottom of the stairs where we then see the boyfriend (David Kyle) do up his shirt and leave through the backdoor. I counted about 55 seconds from when they ran upstairs and for this person to reach the staircase. It honestly must be the quickest sex ever put to film. Anyway, we keep with the POV shot and watch this person slowly walk up the stairs, it really seems like one long uncut sequence when it fact it is, there are two official cuts, and suggestions of a third in which Carpenter does not deny or confirm. We see a hand reach out for a clown mask on the floor in which the boyfriend was originally wearing and we are then greeted to a shot like this:
, the words "Michael!" ring out from Judith (Samdy Johnson) as the knife begins to go to work in what seems like another homage to Psycho. But its not just a normal killing. If you look closer, while the knife is going in, the killer is looking around, we see the messy bed that suggests the quick bonk, and then a quick look at the knife itself, its like the person is shocked at what they are doing but also fascinated. With Judith dead, the killer flees, we see the front door opening and a young couple walk up to this person, we hear the name again "Michael" and the clown mask is taken off to reveal the shocking image of a young six year old boy holding the knife. It seems on a cold Halloween Night in 1963, six year old Michael Audrey Myers murdered his sister Judith Margaret Myers and was later sentenced to the Smith's Grove Warrem Country Sanatorium where be locked away for fifteen years!

October 30, 1978

Is the Night he came home. Escaping when due to be transferred for a court date in the middle of the night, a now older Michael returns to Haddonfield, where he targets two babysitters, Laurie and Annie, while a third Lynda is nearby planning to have sex with her boyfriend. As the day goes to dark, unknown to them, they are being watched, in the shadows, from the outside, a thirst to kill again strong in this force of evil and their only hope is Dr Loomis, Michael's childhood psychiatrist who is on his way back to the town, convinced that Michael has returned to the place he calls home, and for the residents of the town, life would never be the same again.

There is no argument that if it was not for Michael there would be no Jason or Freddy. Halloween set the template that others would follow and virtually gave birth to the slash genre that was a major selling point for horror throughout the eighties. Amazingly while this is credited for being the most influential horror film ever, its roots were displayed a couple of years before in the underrated Black Christmas which shares many of its themes and sequences. John Carpenter denies ever seeing that film before he started this movie, but the link is uncanny when you watch them back to back. No matter what though, Halloween is the better film. What Carpenter succeeds in doing is making a horror that is actually frightening. He showed that there was no need to get a high body count to achieve the needs of the horror circles and while this spawned many copies, nearly all including the Friday 13th series, ignored this notion. In fact apart from the death scene in the beginning, there are no killings of note until the final half hour, more modern audience bought up on Saw will shake their head and demand the gore, but Halloween creates a never beaten sense of dread and fear. Watching this masked fiend, stalking these three, brings more terror than the usual dumb blonde killing, and raises the film up to a high quality level.
Michael always appeared from behind, one scene that emphasizes the style is when Annie is on the phone to Laurie while we see Michael looking from the outside. the fear it generates is amazing and when Annie gets trapped in the Laundry room, we see him from behind, and his all purpose slow walk, will send all horror fans in a frenzy. Off course there are death scenes, but they are not cheap sequences that would later dilute the franchise. All are brutal examples of a mad man at work, the killing of Bob is the most memorable of them all, his stabbing feet high from the floor in which Michael just stands there, his held tilting hints again that this is a child with no emotion and special praise must go towards Nick Castle who somehow brings out a personality in this killer with no use of words. He was and always will be the perfect portrayal of The Shape, he makes Michael seem sort of Supernatural, and aided by a creepy score that was created by Carpenter himself, it is a combination of supreme scares that again makes Halloween so hard to beat, and its hard to imagine that Castle could direct something so family and gentle with The Boy Could Fly when he came across so evil here.

Everything that is classified as horror cliches was born here. We see sequences like forgotten keys, locked doors, all play a part in the suspense but even now they still have an uncanny way of working to full effect. By the time we get to the final battle between the virgin Laurie and her nemeses, the film is in full swing, a massive battle commences
that brings knitting needles, and hiding in wardrobes together for a massive sense of adrenalin Seriously if you not hooked by now, then you clearly do not love your horror. But just when you think Carpenter can not offer any more. He created a setpiece that actually had people running out of the cinema in tears. The
shape rising from Laurie has gone down in horror cinema as one of the greatest moments. It really is wonderfully directed by Carpenter who manages to give one last scare to the audience. The cliff hanger final shot was not meant to offer a sequel or for a franchise to be born. It was meant for the audience to go home wondering if Michael could be there, in the shadows while they sleep. Of course, despite the protests of Carpenter the film made too much money for there not to be a sequel, and of course a storyline was created to fit the "why Laurie?" question. But while its hard not to watch this film not knowing why he is after her, its nice to know that in 1978, horror fans had a film that had a killer in which no motive was offered. Just a killing machine on a fun game of mayhem, before family issues became a focal point of the series. But that is a discussion for another thread because for now, I take time out to remember a film that is not just a horror film, but a masterpiece of all cinema genres

- HughesRoss

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Post #: 135
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:45:38 AM   
rawlinson

 

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7. Apocalypse Now



(1979; Francis Ford Coppola)
Highest Vote: Toast

Apocalypse Now is an adaptation of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, updated to the Vietnam War. Captain Benjamin Willard (Sheen) is sent into the jungle to assassinate the rogue, insane Colonel Kurtz (Brando). Willard is a troubled special ops vet. Willard has just been returned to Saigon and is losing himself in drink in order to adjust. He's approached by two intelligence officers (one a young Harrison Ford) with a special assignment, go up a Cambodian river to find and kill Kurtz. Kurtz was a decorated officer who has gone native and now commands his own troops deep in the jungle. Willard joins an eccentric Patrol Boat crew for his journey, making a rendezvous with the clearly insane surfing fanatic Colonel Kilgore (Duvall) along the way. The army tolerates the insane as long as they're on their side and killing the right people. In order to help clear the way for the patrol, Kilgore leads a helicopter assault on an enemy beach. The battle sequence, soundtracked to Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries has rightly become one of the most memorable in cinema. As the journey progresses, Willard becomes more obsessed with Kurtz and alienates himself from the boat's crew. Despite the deaths of patrol members, Willard manages to convince the increasingly hostile crew to continue its mission, leading him to his final confrontation with Kurtz.

The film became notorious because of its troubled production, There were rumours that Sheen had a heart-attack, torrential rain nearly closed down the shoot for good, sets were destroyed, the golden-boy Coppola had gone over the edge. But the end result was everything it should have been. It was self-indulgent, breathtaking, glorious, imaginative, insane, an incredible statement on war from a member of a generation who'd just been protesting one. It wasn't a war in the sense that journalism was presenting it, or even other cinema. Apocalypse Now doesn't even need to be about Vietnam, it could be about any fucked-up war, but stories of the atrocities committed in Vietnam by the people who thought they were the good guys means that Vietnam suits it best. The film works better as a statement on human insanity. The way mankind brings so much chaos to the world, the way we can wipe out boundary lines when there's nobody around to stop us, and the way we sometimes don't even allow an internal censor to moderate our own behaviour.

The acting is mostly over-the-top. Dennis Hopper's photojournalist seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Duvall's Kilgore is already there and it seems he's just a step or two away from opening fire on everyone around him. Brando's portrayal of Kurtz is insane and indulgent, but it works in the context of the film and may be the finest performance he ever gave, especially when explaining his philosophy to Willard. It's only Martin Sheen who seems to underplay, and it seems a perfect decision to have Willard as the passive observer, slowly being tainted by everything he sees around him.

Apocalypse Now is the kind of film that's unlikely to get made today, an era where cinematic spectacle is defined as the confused mess that Michael Bay throws at the screen. But a film like Apocalypse Now really does create its own environment and drag the viewer into it. Coppola may take us to a dark and hostile world, but it's the kind of unique, brave and brutal film-making that cinema needs.

- Rawlinson

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Post #: 136
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:46:53 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
6. Dog Day Afternoon



(1975; Sidney Lumet)
Highest Vote: Rebenectomy

Leading up to Dog Day Afternoon, I was quickly becoming an admirer of Sidney Lumet's work. I hadn't seen much of it, admittedly, but I couldn't wait to dive into more. Twelve Angry Men was incredible; a certain masterpiece that went against every stereotype that it backed itself into. It may have been black and white and it may have been a one room drama, but it was still gripping, entertaining stuff. Serpico followed, and I'm still sure that it's one of the best police dramas I've seen yet. Last year, I had chance to see some Lumet in the cinema, thanks to the release of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead starring Ethan Hawke and the wonderful Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It may not have been quite on the level of Twelve Angry Men or Serpico, but it's certainly still a gripping dramatic piece that shows Lumet has still got it in him at the ripe old age of eighty four. And so the next film I had to see was pretty obvious; Dog Day Afternoon. It was good to see Pacino and Lumet back together, and the plot looked very promising...

Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) are two Vietnam veterans who – forced by circumstance – decide to rob a bank. They maraud in, losing their partner Stevie to cowardice, and proceed to muck up on several counts. Soon, the police are involved, and shortly after the FBI are on the scene. In front of hundreds of people, Sonny attempts to negotiate his and Sal's escape to freedom, asking for jets, limos, buses and helicopters. Will they escape with the loot, which is already smaller than they expected thanks to a mix-up with Sonny's informer (the cash was collected from the bank the morning of the robbery)? Or will the police zone in on their targets?

I have to be honest, for the first half an hour I didn't really like what I was seeing. It seemed a little fantastical in parts, and although the strong base of the initial robbery – Pacino and Cazale both on top form – it soon lost its way. The fact that the crowd seemed to be so heavily in favour of the robbers just seemed ridiculous. The charm and charisma of Pacino is undoubted. He's managed to create likeable characters over the years in roles that shouldn't be likeable at all. Michael Corleone was a mob boss, but we still found sympathy. Vincent Hannah was a neglectful job-aholic, but that only induced sorrow rather than antipathy. Even Sonny has his good characteristics; he's obviously doing this for people he cares about rather than monetary gain. He has a loving family, and although he can't exactly be called "normal”, he reacts to the robbery the same way that every one of us would. He's scared and he's nervous, frantically going about his business in a frenetic yet efficient manner. However, even with this charisma, a few shouts of "Attica!” would never convince an audience that this bank-robbing criminal was the good guy.

However, things soon pick up after this initial misstep. We're no longer put through a bit of melodramatic tosh with big speeches and roaring crowds, instead things close in all around us. It gets to feel very claustrophobic, which I guess reflects the attitude of the criminals within the bank. As the police force and federal agents begin to close in all around them, the robbers get even more frantic, and have less and less space to thrash around in. The moment where Pacino, scared half out of his wits, defends the back of the bank with no real purpose or aim, is brilliantly handled. It could have been a huge shootout akin to something from a Nic Cage movie, but instead it's just a single shot. These men don't want another battle on their hands... they've had more than enough of that in the army. Instead, they're frantic and desperate, fighting for their lives the only way they know how.

You can thank Sidney Lumet for this great atmosphere over the last hour and a half, because he's moulded another small-scale drama into a tense slow-building wonder rather than the explosive action movie it could have been under a lesser director. Here, we're treated to what is a character study embedded deep within a crime/action movie. Although Al Pacino's Sonny is the main character, certainly the one we know most about, and the one with the most screen time, it's John Cazale's Sal that intrigues the most. He's a quiet, strange and obviously troubled man who – clearly past the prime of his life – doesn't exactly know what to do with what's left of it. Vietnam has scarred him, but it's never truly told what went on with him in the war. It's just implied that it's left its impression. He's a war veteran criminal who doesn't want the cancer from smoking, but is more than happy to kill himself or others. Sal is an odd man, but Cazale's quiet and discomforting performance brings him to life wonderfully. Although Pacino dazzles with his shouty Al persona, it's Cazale who grounds the film in reality. And it's not a reality that is particularly nice to watch.

- Piles

(in reply to rawlinson)
Post #: 137
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:50:01 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest



(1975; Milos Forman)
Highest Vote: WifeofRaw

A film that not only proves what a superb actor Nicholson was in the 70s, but also that sometimes the Oscar goes to a really deserving film. Nicholson is excellent as the free-spirited mental asylum patient determined to shake up the system, as is Louise Fletcher as the harsh head nurse he clashes with.

(in reply to rawlinson)
Post #: 138
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:52:03 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
4. Alien



(1979; Ridley Scott)
Highest Vote: Rebel Scum, Movie Addict

The crew of the commercial towing ship the Nostromo is unexpectedly awakened long before arrival back on earth. Detecting a signal from a nearby planet a team head down to find the source. Kane gets a little too close to the cause of the problem and, with the science officer's help, gets it back on the ship.

Where its sequel Aliens is one of the greatest SF actioners ever made, Alien is a horror-thriller that presents a living, breathing blue collar working environment and one of the tensest, most atmospheric, most amazingly designed horrors ever made. The brilliance of the film is anchored by a pretty eclectic cast – how often do you see a slasher where there is no dead weight on the screen? In Alien we have the heavyweight presence of two of Britain's best actors – Ian Holm and John Hurt. Cult superstar Harry Dean Stanton and the wonderful Yaphet Kotto. And Sigourney Weaver, soon to pave the way for award credibility for women in action roles.

Alien created the world that Aliens later expanded parts of – here we have the hint of the dystopian earth back home, controlled by corporations, as the company sends them down to the signal and Ash acts solely in their interests, irrespective of the safety of the crew. The opportunity for new product is more important than that. And this future is not the utopian leisure ideal – Brett and Parker are clearly at the bottom of the pile on the ship and their sole interest is getting their deserved share from anything that's found on the planet below, while bitching about their contractual terms for the current load.

Any review of Alien has to comment on Giger's stunning and oft-referenced and imitated design work. The director's cut gave us more of the alien ship and the 'gothic cathedrals' the aliens crafted to host and breed their young, but the alien design, so winningly expanded upon by Winston in the sequel, is a masterpiece in the monster genre. Both inside and out, Giger gave Scott the ultimate killing machine. And Scott, always great with visuals, took full advantage of that. We, the audience, knew it had changed from the chest buster (bits and pieces of sloughed off skin) but were as much in the dark of what it was becoming as the characters were and Scott, filming it in shadow and avoiding what is often the full on money-shot, used that to heighten the audience's adrenaline levels sky high (if you don't get a jolt when Dallas goes after it in the air ducts, you're dead!). He was also handed, rather unusually for him, a great script – O'Bannon acknowledged a wide range of sources for the ideas they brought together but the dialogue should also get a nod, particularly the interactions with Brett and Parker and the general and very authentic work/group chat.

The greatest anecdote from Alien is that they didn't tell the other actors what was going to happen to Kane during the meal, with several consistent reports that Cartwright's rather hysterical reaction as she got the full blunt of the exploding blood was genuine.

Alien scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. I still remember hiding behind a paper the first time I saw the chest bursting scene and even with years of ever gorier horrors since then the film has the same impact now because the world it creates – that claustrophobic ship and those quarrelling co-workers – gives a more convincing and terrifying depth to the story being told than any other film in the genre made since. Alien is a masterpiece of visceral excitement (that still finds time to worry about the ship cat).

- Elab49.

(in reply to rawlinson)
Post #: 139
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:53:21 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
3. Badlands



(1973; Terrence Malick)
Highest Vote: Movie Addict

its inspiration from the infamous Starkweather-Fugate murder spree, Malick's first film has rightly become regarded as one of the finest debuts in American cinema, held in the same high regard as Citizen Kane and Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam. Badlands stars Martin Sheen as Kit, a garbage collector in 1950s South Dakota. He uses his James Dean-ish good looks to win over 15 year old Holly (Spacek). When her father (Warren Oates) doesn't approve of the relationship, Kit kills him and the two run away together, starting a murderous spree across Dakota. Malick took the lovers on a crime spree subgenre and made it less about love and crime than about boredom and delusion. There's gunfire and deaths, but no great shootouts and while the murders barely phase the two leads, they're presented to the audience as ugly, brutal, and often senseless.

Holly and Kit create illusions of themselves as great romantic outlaws, but both characters are children really. The baton twirling Holly is just 15 and obsessed with romance and movie magazines, basing her ideas of love and the world on the image they portray. Kit spends his time (when not killing people) burying makeshift time capsules, shooting holes in footballs and playing with a Dictaphone. He's always aware of the importance of his reputation, and is never happier than in the end when striking the good natured rebel pose for the police. The two even live in a fort when hiding out in the woods. But they also have the amoral nature of childhood, where cruelty is easy and, for these two, so is death. Holly even expresses a desire to see Kit drown, just so she can watch him. The images they've seen dictate their life. Even the relationship seems more out of the desire for the illusion of a great love rather than something genuine. They don't even seem that motivated by sex. The main thing they have in common are the delusions they share.

As always, Malick seems interested in the contrast between violent acts and nature, with the murders seeming even smaller and more callous when set against the vast beauty of nature, and small moments such as Kit standing on and then aimlessly kicking at a dead cow setting up these characters as transgressors against the natural order. Malick doesn't wag a disapproving finger at the couple, but I think it's made clear these are bored and empty kids, not heroic figures. Art doesn't need to whack you over the head and scream in your face that violence is bad in order to get its point across, if they did, all films would be like Funny Games and then cinema would disappear up its own arse, with the last image being Haneke's face calling everyone else an idiot for not being as intelligent as him.

With both Sheen and Spacek turning in some of the best work of their careers and a great cameo by that God among men, Warren Oates, some of the most visually breathtaking film-making I've ever had the pleasure to see and that score, Badlands ranks among the greatest films ever made. There's just one small problem. As much as I like Martin Sheen, there's no way in hell he could take down Warren Oates.

- Rawlinson

(in reply to rawlinson)
Post #: 140
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:58:12 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
2. Jaws



(1975; Steven Spielberg)
Highest Vote: Gimli

What is this bullshit? The shark doesn't look real? Oh, it does too! This has been my personal belief ever since I first saw Jaws. I even went as far as writing a Tarantino-like dialogue scene in some unfinished movie script where gangsters put up well-reasoned arguments that the shark does indeed look real. When your movie aspires to such meaningless debate, you know you have made something close to iconic. Sure, it created the summer blockbuster, but based on the many summer blockbusters from this year I'd say that the directors of those films ought to sit down and watch Steven Spielberg's masterpiece once more, because they have not understood what makes a great thrill-ride. Then again, could anyone top this classic? Did Die Hard make us afraid of skyscrapers? Did Speed make us afraid of buses? I think not. What I do know, is that I can never be really safe when swimming in the ocean after having watched Jaws. Sure, the chances of sharks appearing in Norwegian seas are as low as me marrying Angelina Jolie, but there's still that hunch. "What if?", you know. I mean, even just once would be too much.

In ways, the shark in Jaws is sort of like a modern Harry Lime. It is rarely seen, but when it finally arrives, the audience's attention is fixed like a sniper-aim towards it. It has become a mythical creature, and is just as famous for its background story and how it barely worked on set. But unlike many of the movie world's monsters, it is a very real creature, which adds to the suspense. But this is so much more than a "shark-film", and Spielberg knew this. The only sub-text the film offers may be the one the audience provides for itself, but there is still a to ponder about. Why, for example, are the the islanders so eager not to shut down the beaches? Yes, we know that they make a living out of it, but they woudn't have a living if their customers were offed as soon as they stepped into the water, would they? To understand this question, we must look at the scene where the mayor (Murray Hamilton) finally caves in to Brody's (Roy Scheider) demand. That the mayor had to wait until his own kids were in danger to act may seem preposterous, but sadly, this is the state of the world we are living in, and if you thought people chasing money always put human lives first, well, then you may very well be an alien.

Analysis of the human condition aside, there's no denying that the power of Jaws is that it's simply so much fun to watch. That being said, Spielberg was no slouch when he made the film, something clearly seen in the "that's some bad hat, Harry"-scene, which sees him raking up a multitude of false alarms before finally injecting the needle in one of the goriest climaxes in PG-13 cinema (how it got that rating to begin with is beyond me). The Vertigo-zoom may seem like a cliche now, but Spielberg uses it to an effect that is equally (if perhaps not more) as effective as when Hitchcock used it. The film also demonstrates that the 2-act structure doesn't need to be the failure it was in Full Metal Jacket. One might think that spending the first half of the movie building up the second half would be suicide, but Spielberg pulls it off with bravura. Just don't make me choose between them. Yes, the second half has the Indianapolis-monologue, but what about the Ben Gardner-scene in the first half? Then, there's the ending and its appropriate final lines, which has its comic counterpart in Ellen Brody's (Lorraine Gary) unintentionally funny reaction when she opens up the shark-book and realizes just how dangerous these creatures are. I could go on forever, but you already know how excellent Jaws is, don't you?

That being said, I have no idea what that shooting star over Brody is. Good timing, special effect or just a gaffe?

- Dantes Inferno.

(in reply to rawlinson)
Post #: 141
RE: 70s Poll Countdown - 9/8/2012 11:58:19 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
1. Taxi Driver



(1976; Martin Scorsese)
Highest Vote: Rawlinson, Matty, Spectator of Suicide, Garviel

When I was a teen I decided I needed to find out what films were supposed to be the best in the world, so I went to the library, got out a lot of books and read them all to decide what films I wanted to see. One film stood out above all others. I'm not sure what it was about Taxi Driver, or what book I saw the picture in, but the legendary black and white photograph of De Niro walking down the street, head hunched down, looking like he wanted to disappear into the background just jumped off the page at me. The only worry was the film had a lot of anticipation to live up to, I didn't know if it could. My first viewing was a strange experience, I didn't understand everything that was going on, but there was something in the atmosphere that just dragged me in. I still attribute my love of weird cinema to sitting there trying to fathom this disturbing but brilliant film. I also credit Taxi Driver with starting my love affair with New York, or more specifically, New York in the 1970s, despite its depiction of the city as Hell.

Taxi Driver focuses on Travis Bickle (De Niro), a lonely and disturbed young man in his 20s. Travis is a Vietnam veteran, he's lost in the world and trying to figure out his place. His chronic insomnia forces him into taking a job driving taxis. He spends his days in porn cinemas and works the longest hour possible, usually night shifts. He goes anywhere in NYC, the places other drivers won't out of fear or prejudice. Despite his willingness to go anywhere in the city, Travis hates the city. It's filled with unobtainable women and the idiotic men who can have them. Bickle becomes attracted to one of these unobtainable women, Betsy (Shepherd), a campaign worker for Senator Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris) who is running for a presidential nomination. They go on a date together where Travis shows his complete lack of social skills by taking her to a porn film. Offended she leaves and rejects his attempts at a reconciliation, with the rejection making Travis even more insular. He becomes more and more disgusted by street crime and he focuses his frustration there, undergoing a period of intense training and buying illegal weapons. One night, Iris (Foster), a 12 year old prostitute, jumps into his cap while trying to escape her pimp. But she is stopped by 'Sport' (Keitel) He sees Iris on the street and tries and fails to convince her to stop prostituting herself. He shaves his head into a mohawk and attends a public meeting to try and assassinate Palantine. He is foiled. In frustration, he goes on the rampage and storms the brothel where Iris works.

Taxi Driver just explodes off the screen at you, filled with the energy of people who desperately want to make their mark. Schrader's script is a disturbing entity, the barely restrained hatred of the world seeming to come from a dark place within the man himself. Racism is rife in the film and Scorsese had to tone down Schrader's script in order to make it a little more palatable. Scorsese seemed to have some sympathy for Travis, in one notable scene, Travis is begging for a second chance when the camera pans away and stares down an empty hallway. Scorsese has said he panned away because he found the rejection too painful to film. There is no qualms about the depiction of New York as Hell however, from its opening scenes of a taxi emerging from Satanic clouds of steam to the finale where we look straight down on the participants, there's no doubt that we're descending into the underworld with this nightmarish film. Working in a strange harmony with the film is Bernard Herrmann's exquisite score. It perfectly contrasts the sleazy city with the beautiful sax and deserves to rank among the greatest film scores of all time

Like many others, De Niro became one of my idols for a long time and his early work still inspires me even now. It's a shame to see his decline over the last twenty years because his early work really earned him his reputation. De Niro here is awkward, naive, with a violent underpinning that makes him into a charismatic but frightening figure. The rest of the cast support him excellently, Cybil Shepherd is perfect (for the only time in her career) as the glacial blonde, Albert Brooks gives a restrained performance that taps into his stand-up background, Foster is chilling as the child prostitute and there are stunning cameos from Steve Prince and Scorsese himself.

Winner of the Palme D'or, and it should have won the Oscar, Taxi Driver is an intensely graphic and frighteningly plausible story of the way a man can be pushed over the edge by loneliness, by awkwardness and by a destructive environment. A true masterpiece.

- Rawlinson

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Post #: 142
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