I know some of you young hoppers out there are averse to movies from the 1970s and 1980s
for some ungodly fucking reason. Or basically anything that occured prior to your mother shitting you out. We actually made a segment on "Spittin' Chiclets" based on this concept a couple of years ago: #AskAMillennial. And yeah, I know, #NotAtllMillennials.
But all ballbusting aside, the '70s are arguably the greatest decade of movies ever made and the '80s, for all of its' cheese and trash, produced some of all-timers. And because people would rather watch Dwight Schrute's Jello stapler for the 875th time or The One Where Chandler Is Sarcastic And Phoebe Is A Bimbo for the 439th time, so many of these old flicks are underseen in their cyberlife. Which is why I'm gonna shine a light on them here.
Whether a movie is 20 years old or 90 years old, when it came out is relevant. Social mores, film technology, tastes, and so much more should be considered when watching an old movie. Things out of its control shouldn't be held against a movie. Instead remember what the director, actors, and crew managed to pull with what they had at their disposal at a certain place in time.
So here's some '70s flicks on Amazon Prime to keep you occupied while you're holed up (there is a serious dearth of American movies from the 1970s on Netflix). Part 2 will feature '80s movies from Netflix.
HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971). Hal Ashby's cult classic about the relationship between a boyish, death-obsessed young man (Bud Cort) and the septuagenarian woman with a zest for living (Ruth Gordon) tanked when it came out and was hardly beloved by critics. But over the next several years, the non-traditional romantic comedy with a distinct independent vibe about a May/December couple that meets at a funeral became a beloved, quirky classic and finally turned a profit in 1983. A movie that probably wouldn't get made today not because of anything offensive but just because it's so different.
SERPICO (1973). Al Pacino earned his second of four straight acting noms for his portrayal of real-life NYC cop Frank Serpico, an honest cop whose efforts to rid the department of entrenched corruption made him Public Enemy #1 among his peers. Directed by the great Sidney Lumet, SERPICO captures the city at its dirty, grimy 1970s "best", when taking payoffs was practically part of a NY cop's job description. Enjoy Pacino at the peak of his powers.
THE CONVERSATION (1974). The movie Francis Ford Coppola directed between THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER PART II and one of the Cazale Five*, Gene Hackman stars in this soaked-in-'70s-paranoia thriller about surveillance guy Harry Caul who might've taken too much interest in a couple he's hired to listen in on. Per usual, Hackman is excellent in a subdued, nuanced performance as a guy wrestling with his conscience over what to do about a recording he captured. John Cazale plays his assistant Stan and turns in his usual stellar work in this slow-burn movie that earned a Best Picture nod. (*---Cazale was in five movies before he died at 42 from cancer and all five were nominated for Best Picture.)
THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974). Another '70s NYC flick, PELHAM is about a crew of criminals who hijack a subway car, take hostages, and demand a $1M ransom, threatening to kill a hostage for every minute the loot is late. Starring Walter Matthau as a transit cop who is in communication with the hoods via radio and Robert Shaw as the creepy, head baddie, this action-thriller largely takes place on a moving train and captures the vibe of the era's shady transit service (save for the graffiti, which the MTA forbade). Not to be confused with the inferior 2009 re-do.
THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975). Robert Redford stars as a CIA researcher who comes back from lunch to find his co-workers murdered and himself in the middle of spy games he didn't sign up for. He also doesn't know who he can trust anymore, if anyone. Another flick that echoes the paranoia of the times, this Sydney Pollack-helmed espionage thriller has a knock-out cast including the late Max von Sydow, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, and John Houseman.
CARRIE (1976). One of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel, CARRIE (Sissy Spacek) is a shy student who gets bullied at high school by asshole classmates then has to go home to her emotionally abusive holy roller mother. Carrie eventually realizes she has telekinetic powers and can exact any measure of revenge with a mere look or thought. Her peers and her mother never let up and Carrie eventually and rightfully snaps. The movie's iconic climax at the prom was one of the most memorable of the decade, thanks in large part to director Brian DePalma. CARRIE also featured a slew of young actors on the cusp of stardom turning in good work (Amy Irving, John Travolta, William Kaat, and Nancy Allen). Not to be confused with the inferior 2013 re-do.
KING KONG (1976). This remake of the groundbreaking 1933 film about a giant ape who falls in love with a blonde, is taken from his island home, then brought to NYC for an ill-fated public appearance was a hit with filmgoers while critics were mixed. I admittedly have a sentimental attachment to this version as it was the first movie I remember seeing at the theater. But I think it also gets a bit of a bad rap as well. The movie does a good job of building up suspense before we finally see the ape onscreen. And we can see why Kong had the hots for the blonde (a knockout Jessica Lange in her cinematic debut). Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin also star in this spectacle. This KONG didn't have the impact of the original but I think it's still a fun relic to revisit.