Here we go with another By The Decade post to help broaden my cinematic horizons and welcome your recommendations from a specific era – but this one, I’m more familiar with than others.
Following the previous 3 From The 30s, 4 From The 40s, 5 From The 50s and 6 From The 60s posts, and the brilliant suggestions from readers for their favourite films from the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s and the 1960s, there are loads of great suggestions for you to check out too in the By The Decades section.
I’ll be honest, I was pretty spoiled for choice this decade and it was tough to whittle them down but in selecting seven I realised just how mainstream some of the choices were. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mainstream, especially when the quality is this high, but it means I’m hoping for some suggestions which offer something a bit new or unexpected.
As always, I’ll post the latest reader recommendations later, but in the meantime here are seven of my favourites from the 1970s.
The horror classic I’ll revisit time and time again, Halloween is – for me – the best of the slasher genre.
From the opening Panaglide POV shot to the unnerving use of negative space in the massive widescreen frames, it’s better shot than most, and while some members of the cast seem might seem a little stereotypical, it’s mainly because John Carpenter laid down the rules that other, lesser slashers have followed for decades.
Also, it has Donald Pleasance, which is always a win in my book.
Star Wars (1977)
It’s Star Wars, isn’t it? For better or for worse, it changed Hollywood forever, inspired generations of filmmakers and playground games, and even pointed people who already considered themselves film geeks to dip into Japanese cinema, fairytales and basic storytelling structure.
I haven’t revisited it since buying the recent Blu-Ray set last year, and I’m not a fan of the late-90s digital additions, but I’m looking forward to watching it with Junior Late Reviewer at some point in the near future.
You can call it A New Hope or Episode IV if you like, I’m not going to hold it against you because I know full well that we all make the same noise when we’re holding a roll of wrapping paper, and that’s all down to the lasting legacy of this film.
The Godfather (1972)
I was channel surfing a little while ago late on a Sunday evening. Tired and ready for bed ahead of an early Monday start, I stumbled across Coppola’s masterpiece on BBC2. It was well into it, but thought I’d give it five minutes.
About an hour and a half later, I finally turned in.
I know it’s popular to say the sequel is the superior film, but I’ve revisited this one far more often and have a fondness for it which I don’t have for the others.
Also, as mentioned in an early Quick Read, it’s one of those films that is far better than the book it’s based on.
The Wicker Man (1973)
A film I heard about long before I saw it, I still think about The Wicker Man often – more than I revisit it, if I’m honest, but that doesn’t lessen its ability to live rent-free in my mind.
I think part of my fondness for it came from reading how much Christopher Lee loved it, and from reading a lot of behind the scenes pieces about its release.
But what I keep thinking about is what it has to say about the strength of belief, and how easy it is to pit one faction against another. The doomed Sergeant Howie’s Christianity is as incomprehensible to the residents of Summerisle as their Pagan beliefs are to him – each of them believe so strongly they’re doing the right thing, and there’s not the slightest glimmer of doubt in the eyes of the islanders as they condemn a man to a fiery death, and to me, that’s utterly terrifying.
Superman: The Movie (1978)
Not the Superman I grew up on (that would be Dean Cain), but probably the best, Christopher Reeve is simply wonderful as the last son of Krypton.
This one feels like another template-setter, with every superhero origin movie that followed taking a leaf out of Richard Donner’s book. Again, it feels like everything came together – the perfect cast, director, that unforgettable score, and a lightness of touch that has been lost in subsequent iterations of the character.
Sadly, I can’t find it to hand, but there’s a gif that regularly does the rounds on Twitter of a moment in Lois’ apartment when Christopher Reeve transforms from Clark to Kal El with nothing more than a slight change of posture, removal of his glasses and a smile. Every time I see it, I fall in love it it all over again.
A damn-near perfect movie. You all know this.
Malfunctioning shark aside, it’s great, and worth the well-documented troubles that led to its creation. Along with Star Wars, this helped change cinema forever, and its impact hasn’t softened four decades after its release.
This is another one of those films I can’t flick past while channel surfing, despite knowing it practically inside out, but it still feels like there’s something to be gained by watching it. Having recently read Edith Blake’s behind the scenes book On Location In Martha’s Vineyard, I’m looking forward to watching it again and looking out for the locals whose stories are told so amusingly in the book… but there’s plenty more on the To Watch Pile before then.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
I said in the 6 From The Sixties post that I prefer Night Of The Living Dead to the rest of Romero’s Dead movies, and I stand by that. However, Dawn Of The Dead runs a very close second.
Aspects of it have certainly dated – one of the characters doesn’t appear to know what a shopping mall is, and the fake blood looks like melted wax – but setting them aside, the things it has to say about consumerism, America in the 1970s and the literal cost of living are a just as memorable as a screwdriver to the ear.
More to the point, you feel for the characters, arguably more so than the men and women in its predecessor. You share their fears, when they face their various ends, it means something more than just a gory dispatch. To me, that’s one of the things that the third and subsequent entries in the series struggled to get right.
One thing I’ve never quite managed to decide is which of the numerous versions I prefer, but I’ll happily keep watching to see if I can finally make my mind up.
All pretty straightforward really, but there were a lot of almost-rans which I’ll definitely add to the follow-up piece if nobody else does.
I’d love to hear about some great 1970s cinema that I’ve missed though, so please take to Twitter, Facebook and the comments section to share your favourite recommendations from the seventies!