Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '75 - Some Favorites from 40 Years Ago ""

Monday, May 4, 2015

Underrated '75 - Some Favorites from 40 Years Ago

Continuing this "Underrated [Year]" series, why not jump back another decade to 1975 and call out some underappreciated gems from 40 years ago?

RANCHO DELUXE (1975; Frank Perry)/ HEARTS OF THE WEST (1975; Howard Zieff)
Two greats starring one of my favorite actors, Mr. Jeff Bridges. One directed by Frank Perry and which attempts to examine the disappearance of the American west, but in a very comical and amusing way. RANCHO DELUXE features an amazing scene of Jeff Bridges and Harry Dean Stanton playing Pong (the early arcade game) which I've always loved. I am desperately hoping for a Blu-ray release of this movie, which seems possible as it was part of the MGM catalog that is getting much High-Definition attention these days. I'm hoping Twilight Time gives it their special edition treatment.
The second in this recommended double feature is from a director nobody speaks of ever, Howard Zieff. He also made the memorable and charming SLITHER in 1973 and hit it big with PRIVATE BENJAMIN in 1980. A deft comic touch that fella, and a director of whom I am quite an admirer. HEARTS OF THE WEST has Bridges playing a naive young writer of dime store Wild West novels who has aspirations of becoming a real life cowboy. Through happenstance, he ends up on a movie set filming a western. Delightful film with a stellar cast that includes Andy Griffith, Donald Pleasance, Alan Arkin, Alex Rocco and the always endearing Richard B. Shull.

ALOHA BOBBY AND ROSE (1975; Floyd Mutrux)
Another directorial voice that doesn't get much press these days is Floyd Mutrux. He's a very California car-culture and music oriented kinda dude and cranked out things like AMERICAN HOT WAX (still unavailable due to music issues), THE HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS and DUSTY AND SWEETS MCGEE. All are interesting films, but my favorite might be ALOHA BOBBY AND ROSE. This may have to do with my affection for the two leads. Paul LeMat, who is just underrated in general and Diane Hull who some may remember from CHRISTMAS EVIL and  THE ONION FIELD but perhaps little else (though she was also in Frank Perry's MAN ON A SWING which I have been meaning to see for a while now). It's just a sweet story of an awkward first date gone a little Bonnie & Clyde. Very catchy soundtrack and features the line "What's your beef, jerky?" which I have always been fond of.

This one of those trippy 70s movies that still stands out as pretty unique today. A college professor (played by Michael Sarrazin) starts to experience flashbacks to a former life and it leads him in different directions. Sarrazin is yet another underrapreciated actor who had quite a run of interesting movies in the 70s. This movie also has Jennifer O'Neal and Margot Kidder. I have definitely heard that David Fincher was looking into the remake rights on this film years ago (or the book it was based on at least), but nothing came of it I guess (or it is still in the works).

THE FORTUNE (1975; Mike Nichols)
I wrote about this film more extensively when Twilight Time released their excellent Blu-ray, but suffice it to say that I think it is one of Mike Nichols' best and funniest films.

HESTER STREET (1975; Joan Micklin Silver)
A tender and well realized feature film debut from Joan Micklin Silver (who I like very much). This tale of some Russian Jewish immigrants was well captured in Black and White and written by Micklin Silver herself. It is the story of one immigrant in particular (played by Steven Keats, who looks a bit like Ryan O'Neal in spots) and how he has moved to the lower east side (circa 1896) and has tried to do everything he can to "Americanize" his persona. From his name, to the way he dresses and so forth, he has distanced himself from his old country. So when he finally brings over his wife (Carol Kane) and little boy, there is a bit of a culture shock in store for them. It's a very intimate tale but one that stands out certainly. The great Doris Roberts also has a small role here as well. I remember seeing this movie mentioned in the back of Danny Peary's Guide for The Film Fanatic years ago and being drawn to it because I loved Micklin Silver's CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER so much. HESTER STREET recently got the Blu-ray treatment from niche label Scorpion Releasing.

One of those drifter road comedies that would crop up from time to time in the 1960s and 70s, this one features a oddball driving instructor who picks up a couple gals looking to hitchhike to New Orleans. The driving instructor is played by Alan Arkin (who was in his prime of playing oddballs in this era) and the gals are two free spirits played by Sally Kellerman and Mackenzie Phillips. Also cropping up in the flick are Charles Martin Smith, Alex Rocco and Harry Dean Stanton.
Written by John Kaye, who also tackled the script for WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM and the aforementioned AMERICAN HOT WAX, so you know it has "cult" appeal. This is one of those Panavision (2.35 to 1) films that mostly ever saw pan and scan releases (VHS and even VOD currently). Warner Archive had it on their Instant streaming service in its OAR at one point, but I am not sure if it is still there. Regardless, it still needs a DVD release, so hopefully WAC will oblige at some point.

THE HINDENBURG (1975; Robert Wise)
Part of the much-beloved (by me) 70s Disaster cycle and one that doesn't get enough attention, especially considering the cast and Robert Wise as director. One of the big draws for me for a lot of these disaster flicks is their amazing ensembles. There's little that could be done with these groups to detract from the fact that they are great actors acting and I love to watch that sort of thing. Let me just roll-call the cast: George C. Scott, Anne Bancroft, Burgess Meredith, Gig Young, William Atherton, Roy Thinnes, Richard Dysart, Rene Auberjonois and Katherine Helmond. Fantastic. Swing a cat and you'll hit a stellar actor here. Some may find the tale of the doomed dirigible a bit dull as told here, but I disagree and like it very much. I had to import a DVD to even get this in 16x9 and that is a shame. It deserves better. It deserves Blu-ray!

BUG (1975; Jeannot Szwarc)
I take any opportunity I can to plug this somewhat obscure bug-attack flick. An earthquake releases an assemblage of mutant cockroaches who are mean little bastards that can start fires among other things. This makes for quite a ruckus in a small town populated by Bradford Dillman, Joanna Miles and a few other actors you might recognize. But I mean, come on, cockroaches are gross enough, but when you through in the starting fires thing it's hard to resist. Also, this one has some scenes that were filmed in the Brady House set which is kinda neat.
Directed by Jeannot "JAWS 2 / SUPER GIRL" Szwarc.

File Larry Peerce in that same section of unheralded directors mentioned above. He directed GOODBYE, COLUMBUS (which I love) among other things and even worked on the 60s Batman TV Show. This particular tale is something of a sappy downer, but I cannot deny my affection for it. It has Marilyn Hassett (look her up) and Beau Bridges entangled in a romance which deals with a skiing champion being paralyzed in a tragic accident. It is movies like this that are oft remembered and cherished for the melancholy within.

HUGO THE HIPPO (1975; Bill Feigenbaum)
A nearly-forgotten, but nonetheless neat animated film featuring the voice talents of Marie and Jimmy Osmond, Burl Ives, Paul Lynde and Robert Morley. Ripe for rediscovery and possibly controlled by Warner Archive (as part of the Brut Films catalog) so we may see a DVD down the line.

Honorable Mentions:
INSERTS (1975; John Byrum)

FRAMED (1975; Phil Karlson)

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