The seventies was a time of technical wonder and political madness. A revolving door should have been erected at the front of the White House as Nixon is elected but swiftly removed from office after the Watergate scandal. Meanwhile, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs create their respective technologies that are still being used to this day. Music would never be the same again as The Beatles call time on their incredible career, and The King Of Rock And Roll Elvis Presley passes away. However, hope can be seen in the form of moonwalking sensation Michael Jackson though, as the future King Of Pop releases his debut album. But what of Hollywood? It seems that what has been and gone on the big screen, we ain’t seen nothing yet! From flying saucers to flying men. Possessed girls to deranged men. Killers to pointy toothed monsters. It’s all here in the most celebrated and, personally, best decade for movies.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)
How would society deal with juvenile delinquents who have a taste of the old in out, in out and ultra violence? The answer is given to us in a very powerful way. Alex Delarge, after spending an evening in the Korova milkbar, commits despicable acts of gang rapes and savage beatings in a dystopian Britain. Hoping to cure the young boy of his anarchic ways, the government enrols Alex in a controversial experiment in the form of brainwashing his mind with images of war and violence to prevent him from committing any more crimes. Will this technique save Alex, or will he eventually succumb to the dark side once more? Banned in the UK for many years because of viewers copying the heinous acts they saw, a shame as the point of the film was truly missed. A man can change his ways if he really wants to. Malcolm Mcdowell owes his career to this film, and his following acts have never surpassed Alex DeLarge. A pat on the back also goes to Stanley Kubrick for adapting the most incomprehensible book that this writer has ever read. The language used in the novel is still embedded into the script but scattered so you can actually understand what the hell is going on. If you are trying make your rassoodocks what to do with the evening, stick a bit of Ludwig Van on and revel in this cult classic. One word of caution: you will never hear Singin’ In The Rain in the same way again.
WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971)
Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to Three. Come with Gene Wilder, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. We’ll begin with the late actor’s stunning performance. Travelling in his wondorous factory, Willy Wonka is played with such grace and humour, but there is also a glint in his eyes that hides the mad scientist within. Even putting trainers in a recipe to “to give it a little kick” defies explanation. The madcap world that lies behind the ominous gates is unforgettable. From the tango faced oompa loompas to the frightening boat ride that would surely have had kids wetting their beds for months. A witty adaption too, with people around the world scrambling for just a sniff of that golden ticket. From a desperate wife not wanting to part with her case of Wonka bars in exchange for her kidnapped husband, to Her Majesty attending auctions! Roald Dahl had disowned the film after the inclusion of the catchy song numbers and didn’t like the casting of the hilarious Wilder. Now I like the children’s author as much as the next man, but I personally think both inclusions helped the film enormously… But what do I know?…
THE GODFATHER (1972)
Whatever Sergio Leone can do with Westerns, Francis Ford Coppola can do just as well with mafia films. The definitive gangster film in many eyes of critics, fans and anyone in the movie business. We’re a couple years away from the biggest debate in sequels history, so for now, it’s hard to disagree with that claim. While Scorcese likes to zip along with fast paced action and beat us senseless with hard hitting violence in his mob pictures, Coppola allows The Godfather to breathe sophistication and allow the scene to play out naturally at a slower pace, much like Leone. All with scatterings of shocking violence that don’t feel forced or added just because it’s a Mafia film. They’re all unfortuante and untimely deaths (or attempted) that ultimatley comes down to business, never personal. Underneath Mario Puzo’s epic journey through the criminal underworld, the main focus is on the family of the Corleone’s. Al Pacino in his finest role, playing the reluctant Micheal who takes over from Don Vito. A path his father never wanted for his youngest son, and neither did Michael. A timeless classic in every single detail of this masterpiece. The horrifying horse’s head massacre. The pathetic and helpless Fredo cowering next to his dying father already showing the man’s weakness. The tragic shooting of Sonny. The intense thought process of Michael in the restaurant. An offer that can’t be refused. All these iconic moments all back up the statement of critics, fans and anyone in the movie business. The Godfather is one of the greatest films of all time.
THE EXORCIST (1973)
More drama than horror, but I guess that’s what makes this tale of demonic posession so enduring for the genre. No jumps or any of the traits we’ve grown acustomed to, but the story of a reverend, losing his faith, reluctnatly helps a desperate mother who believes her daughter’s spirit has been taken over by a powerful and terrifying spirit. Dated slightly now in terms of effects but what hasn’t lost any of it’s relevancy is the themes that lie within The Exorcist. Although Regan does indeed have the Devil inside of her, Rev. Jason Miller has the grief and guilt of his mother’s death grasping at his very core. Flashes of a pale ghost and dreams of yelling for Mrs. Miller he cannot shake off. Regan feeling depressed and lonely after her parent’s split, it’s no surprise her body is a suitable host for such a vile and quite frankly sexual demon. As evil has come for them both, they must fight to keep their sanity. The power of christ compels you to watch this extraordinary exorcism as you will witness a spider walk down the stairs, a 360 degree head turn and one of the most chilling theme tunes around.
THE GODFATHER PART 2 (1974)
It’s the age-old question. Which is better: The Godfather Part 1 or Part 2? Some will be adamant that the original is far more superior to the sequel, while others will say the origins of Vito Andolini make Part 2 a more compelling viewing. But what is undeniable is the question: Is The Godfather Part 2 the best sequel ever made? The answer would be a resounding yes. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, it’s a very brave move to have half of your film to be the current events of Michael Corleone’s reign as Don, while the other half is flashbacks of his father’s rise to criminal underground dominance. What makes this sequel head and shoulders above the rest is that it works. With a young De Niro giving a very reserved but captivating performance of Vito, and Al Pacino improving on his acting chops and delivering his best performance never to be beaten. Playing alongside Pacino must be daunting to say the least, but Diane Keaten is terrific and both oscar winners play off each other in fine style. Both trapped in their own hell, the abortion scene is both heartbreaking and terrifying as the look of intensity in Michael’s eyes is pure menace. The film ups the ante in terms of emotional stakes too, as Michael has the gut wrenching realisation that his own brother has betrayed his family. Pacino again playing it so well as he contemplates killing his own brother or sparing his life in one single stare. One line from the first film is brought to life at the end in a flashback when Michael breaks the news to the family he’s joined the army. Again, reminding us how far he has come from an innocent bystander to fully fledged Mob Boss. After hearing the echoed gun shot from the lake, is Michael Corleone still telling himself: “That’s my family, Kay– it’s not me”?…
Part 2 of Movies Classics of the 70’s coming soon. What do you think should be included?
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By George Millard