Daniel R. Budnik is currently writing for the blog Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things, covering everything from B.J. and the Bear to the Torchy Blane film series. He is co-author of the book Bleeding Skull!: A 1980's Trash-Horror Odyssey. He also wrote for the Bleeding Skull! site for several years. At this moment, he is deep into the writing of another film related book. This one containing 100% more Reb Brown than the last one. He is collaborating with Amanda from Made-For-TV Mayhem on a TV movie related podcast for later in 2015. Daniel's Twitter handle is @dannyslacks1.
This list is slightly different in approach from my Underrated 1985 list. I was 12 in 1985 so I could speak of films I’d watched, remembered and felt should get more credit for being awesome. I was 2 in 1975. My only theatrical remembrance at that age are my first words because they happened in a movie theater. They were “You Go, Chief!” when the Chief breaks out of the asylum at the end of Cuckoo’s Nest. (That’s a lie. It’s actually watching an advanced preview of The Love Butcher with the cast and having Don Jones change my diaper.) (Another lie.) So, this list is films that I love from 1975 that I simply don’t think have got enough credit or love, for whatever reason.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975; Jim Sharman) – The experience of watching the movie with a participating crowd is not underrated. But, I believe the movie still remains somewhat unloved outside of the experience. It’s actually a very entertaining, well-designed film with some great songs and a nice twisted sense of the absurd. I have seen this film more times in the theater than any other one. Back in my junior year of high school (’89-’90), my friends and I used to go to a theater in Rochester, NY to catch it at midnight on the weekends. I believe we went about 75 times. (It might be more.) We started off as novices, became experts yelling out everything at the perfect times (and doing the Time Warp) to a group of people who began making up their own stuff to yell and, eventually, sort of getting tired of it.
We got ourselves a bootleg copy on VHS, long before the home video release. That was the UK version with the song “SuperHeroes.” We loved it so much that one night we set up Matt Tobin’s living room like a theater and invited friends over to re-enact a screening, with us yelling out stuff and throwing things around the place. Matt may have ended up in his underwear.Somewhere along the way, I actually watched the film and really enjoyed it. It may work best with a huge crowd where the movie itself is only one element of the evening’s entertainment. But, watched alone with no one saying a word, it’s great. Match it with The Phantom of the Paradise and you’ve got some great times.
Meatcleaver Massacre (1975; Evan Lee) – With a title like that, it’s got to be the best. With its more specific alternate title, Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre, it definitely becomes the best. And yet, where is my Blu-Ray release? I don’t see one in front of me. (In fact, many of my favorite 1970s horror are out on nothing but VHS. Headless Eyes anyone?) It’s been said more often than I can remember that pre-Halloween, 1970s American horror films are some of the goofiest, most individual and most wonderful things around. (And there’s always another one to be discovered.) Meatcleaver Massacre is in that category. A professor is attacked by four of his students and put in a coma. In the coma, the professor channels an ancient demon namedBorak. Borak enacts deadly revenge upon the four thugs in assorted odd fashions. And that’s the movie. Christopher Lee introduces it all but the intro is so non-specific that it could be put at the front of a dozen films. It all has that 1970s look to it, that undefinable (possibly something to do with the film stock?)grime and haze to it that makes people think that the whole decade was a strange smeary time as opposed to the sharp colors throughout the 1960s. This film makes a great double bill withThe Severed Arm. I don’t want to say much more about it. Find a copy. Watch it. Pick up the phone. Call a friend and show them.Then, give homage to Borak so you don’t lose your head. (Hey man, Sh*t Happens.)
The Werewolf of Woodstock (1975; John Moffitt) – A hippie hating farmer living in Woodstock is struck by lightning on the abandoned Woodstock stage and becomes a werewolf. Near the end, he steals a dune buggy. SOV-late night Made-for-TV. That should be where I end this but I’ll say a bit more. The movie is a bit on the slow side. The rock and roll hippies aren’t that interesting. The police aren’t terribly interesting. But, the werewolf is cool and that farmer freakin’ hates hippies! And it’s on video! This movie was made by Dick Clark’s production company and reminds me of a more exciting version of one of Larry Buchanan’s late night TV movies. Team it with The Werewolf of Washington and OD on W’s.
The Magic Flute (1975; Ingmar Bergman) – I’m not a huge opera guy. I used to try really hard. I love Fidelio. And there was one other opera that I really loved. I heard it on a classical radio station one night and then promptly forgot what it was called. I do like Mozart. I can listen to the Final Movement of the Jupiter Symphony over and over. I had heard some arias from The Magic Flute but had never seen (or heard) the opera in full. Then, I read Pauline Kael’s review of Ingmar Bergman’s The Magic Flute. She loved it. So, I watched it and I loved it. It’s a delightful motion picture that is loaded with brio and gusto. Bergman shoots it as if it were a live performance on a stage so the audience is included. There are deliberately obvious stage effects that are incredibly charming. The performers are all lip syncing, which might take some getting used to. But, it’s such a joyous opera and Bergman is clearly having a rollicking time. I’ve shown this film to people who hate opera or have no interest in it. They never become opera fans but they enjoy the movie. Pair it with Bergman’sShame. Watch that one first and get really depressed. Then, revel in the mystical shenanigans of The Magic Flute. (Or if you’re feeling perverse, team this with H.G. Lewis’s Santa Visits TheMagic Land of Mother Goose.)
Love and Death (1975; Woody Allen) – In between the Woody Allen movies Sleeperand Annie Hall, there is a movie called Love and Death.Woody’s fans know it. But, everybody should because it’s hilarious. Woody channels Bob Hope via The Marx Brothers. Diane Keaton is comedy perfection. The film is set in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars. Woody plays Boris a cowardly, existential fellow who becomes an accidental hero during an epic battle. He falls in love with his cousin Sonja, played by Keaton, and somehow they wind up setting out to assassinate Napoleon (played by James Tolkan). The movie moves from hilarious scene to hilarious scene with the pace of a Marx Brothers film (sans musical numbers). When I saw it in the theater, some people were visibly not keeping up with the constant flow of the comedy because it just keeps coming.(Same thing happens with the Marx Brothers films.) Love and Death contains some of my favorite moments ever: including Boris’s gift to Sonja of earrings… the long ones. And, thetracking shot with the soldiers where one guy offers to showBoris a lock of his gal’s hair. The man produces almost a full head of hair from his pocket. “She’s running around bald.” Mix that with the beautiful European locations and the fact that Boris really is trying to find the meaning of life… (This movie and Monty Python introduced me to the strange and wonderful world of Philosophy.) I love this movie. Team it with Duck Soupfor an evening of crazy. Even if you don’t like Woody, this one will make you laugh. If you like laughing, that is. If you don’t like laughing, I can come to your house and kick you in the pants.