If ScreenAnarchy existed 35 years ago, what would we be writing about?
The question occurred to me as I was reminiscing about 1982, a justifiably famous year for great genre flicks released by Hollywood studios. That year's faves included Blade Runner, TRON, Conan the Barbarian, Poltergeist, Swamp Thing, The Beastmaster, Creepshow, Q, 48 Hours, The Dark Crystal, First Blood, sequels Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, The Road Warrior, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, remakes Cat People, The Thing. Yeah, it was a good year.
But then I was watching Blue Water, White Death, the amazing documentary that finally arrived on DVD earlier this year, and was thinking: "Holy cow! That was released in 1971; I was a kid, but I remember the trailers, and I knew my parents would never let me go. What other movies did I miss out on that year?" I started looking at 1972 rather than 1971 only because 35 years ago sounds more significant than 36 years ago.
To further set the stage, here are the films that were up for Best Picture of the Year (Academy Awards actually decided upon in 1973): Cabaret, Deliverance, The Emigrants, The Godfather, Sounder. Weird combination, eh? The Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film went to Luis Bunuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Films released that year whose remakes are about to release now: The Heartbreak Kid, Sleuth.
Enough of the "respectable" films. Let's get genre-ific. Read on and let's start the debate!
First, I present the suggestions of three other ScreenAnarchy writers (not intended to be definitive, just to help me).
Duck, You Sucker!
Aardvark, with his comments intact:
Fritz the Cat
Z.P.G. (I know it’s from the UK, but it counts if it got a USA release in ‘72?)
Bay of Blood (Mario Bava)
The Other (Robert Mulligan)
Shaft’s Big Score
Black Belly of the Tarantula
Deep Throat (well, worthy of at least an editorial and loads of references...)
Son of Blob
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Hands of the Ripper
The Beast with Two Heads
Collin A, with his comments intact;
There’s Always Vanilla - Romero working outside the genre
Wake In Fright - at the tip of the Australian new wave; super-creepy
Pink Flamingos - can’t go wrong with classic Waters
J.C. - Jesus as a tough-guy biker! One of my most treasured VHS titles
Reazione a catena / ScreenAnarchy of the Death Nerve - Bava = good
The Other - wonderfully understated suspense film with an amazing payoff
Z.P.G. - dystopic sci-fi also = good
Fright - creepy "the calls are coming from inside the house" offering - possibly the first of its kind
Frenzy - Hitch goes dirty
Prime Cut - lurid Lee Marvin actioner offers touches of perverse brilliance
Marjoe - bizarre-o doc on the child-preacher / eventual leading man in Starcrash
4 mosche di velluto grigio / 4 Flies on Grey Velvet - Argento coming into his own
Last House on the Left - Craven and co. go from industrial docs and porn to horror
The Valachi Papers - ghostly crime drama with young Chuck Bronson
Across 110th Street - literate black exploitation with a killer soundtrack
And now my personal choices, after first eliminating anything nominated for an Academy Award, which leaves out some of the very best, such as The Godfather (of course), Deliverance, The Candidate, and Murmur of the Heart. I'm leaving out a ton of foreign films we would have covered (I'm sure), only to show that there were still plenty of American (if not entirely Hollywood) films to get excited about in 1972.
5. The Abductors
This is one of those proverbial "so dirty and sleazy you want to take a shower while you're watching it" flicks. The middle edition of the Ginger trilogy is clumsily filmed, edited, and performed. But I believe Cheri Caffaro was capable of making young boys spontaneously begin puberty, and even folks offended by the film's horrid treatment of women cannot complain of discrimination, since men get stripped and woman-handled too. A true curio of its era, I can't imagine it played anywhere but grindhouses and drive-in theaters even in 1972, but today you can watch it in the comfort of your own home. The Abductors is why DVD was invented.
4. Prime Cut
While it lacks the extreme exploitation edge of extensive sex and violence, Michael Ritchie's "mobsters out of water" crime drama has plenty of low-key verve and a cynical view of Middle America. Chicago enforcer Lee Marvin is sent to Kansas City to collect a large debt run up by Gene Hackman. Along the way he finds a naked Sissy Spacek in an animal pen and uncovers a country filled with complacent people. Seldom has a simple entertainment painted such an unflattering portrait of the common man. (See also: My review.)
3. The Getaway
Instantly absorbing. With a minimum of dialogue and subtle visual choices, Sam Peckinpah quickly establishes Steve McQueen as a laconic man of action. The film comes close to being a genre masterpiece, with several flawlessly-executed action sequences that are a joy to behold and a very solid narrative structure -- scripted by the great Walter Hill and based on a novel by Jim Thompson -- allowing for Peckinpah's inevitable improvisations. McQueen is the perfect soft-spoken criminal hero. "Punch it, baby!"
2. Bay of Blood
I'd like to think I'd have been sufficiently discerning to see past the blood and naked women to Mario Bava's artistry. Probably not, but it's a dream I like to entertain, which puts me in the right mood to be chilled to the bone by the primal evils unleashed. Bava, even Bava working at a level a little below his very best, is still more innovative and downright thrilling than just about any other filmmaker. Watch this film to get a taste of where several generations of horror filmmakers got their ideas -- sometimes without realizing it, since the imitators have spawned imitators.
I missed it in the theater but ever since my first viewing on television -- in a completely incomprehensible, heavily edited version -- I've been entranced by George Roy Hill's take on Kurt Vonnegut's novel. I loved the time shifting between the past, present and future, Valerie Perrine lounging naked, and how totally uncomfortable the whole thing made me feel, a feeling I cannot yet easily define. Sometimes the best films are the ones you don't understand.
What are your favorites from 1972?