Have a look at his Underrated '85 list as well:
Royal Flash (1975; Richard Lester)Generally seen as Richard Lester’s follow-up to his preceding The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers epic two-parter, Royal Flash is generally seen as the lesser for it. And it’s not on the level of those movies, but then, those are two of the best films of the Seventies. That leaves room for Royal Flash to still be a lot of fun. Like the Dumas adaptations, it’s a riff on Errol Flynn-style swashbucklers, equal parts silent-era slapstick and Vietnam-era cynicism. Malcolm McDowell stars as the title antihero, a Victorian soldier whose cowardice, greed, and dishonesty subverts every expectation for dashing lead characters; the actor’s still in his impish yet fresh-faced Clockwork Orange/O Lucky Man! mode, and as such, charming enough to make his reprehensible character very likable.
The Day of the Locust (1975; John Schlesinger)
Despite one film in the Criterion Collection—Sunday Bloody Sunday—and two others with undeniably iconic moments—Midnight Cowboy andMarathon Man with, respectively, “I’m walking here!” and “Is it safe?”—John Schlesinger’s arguably an underrated director these days. This large-scale adaptation of Nathanael West’s 1932 novella is my favorite from a filmography that also includes gems like Far From the Madding Crowd, Darling, and The Falcon and the Snowman. Though well-known and fairly well-respected, it’s not the best-loved movie—a look at the dark side of Golden Age Hollywood, it must be one of the bleakest pieces of work to ever come out of a big studio. But it’s also an incredible piece of filmmaking, from Conrad Hall’s cinematography to the performances from a cast led by Donald Sutherland (as Homer Simpson) and Karen Black.
The Fortune (1975; Mike Nichols)
A movie that’s tended to be dismissed in interviews by the people who made it, including director Mike Nichols and star Warren Beatty. Granted, both had made better—Beatty starred just the same year inShampoo, and co-star Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But this trifle of a movie is a lot more fun than its treatment in books like Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bullswould lead you to expect. It plays a bit like a period-set variation on Nichols’s ex-partner Elaine May’s masterpiece A New Leaf, with inept conmen Nicholson and Beatty taking turns trying to seduce heiress Stockard Channing, in hopes of marrying and then murdering her. It also plays as an early version of the retro-Americana-obsessed that would later be done more assuredly by the Coens (who are nonetheless public as fans of this movie): Beatty’s mustache in this even seems like a spiritual ancestor of George Clooney’s in O Brother, Where Art Thou? It’s not the classic people might have hoped for considering the talent involved (which also included Five Easy Piecesscreenwriter Carole Eastman) but it’s a relaxed, entertaining lark from people who shouldn’t have had anything to prove at that point.
French Connection II (1975; John Frankenheimer)
Along with The Godfather, Part II, the sequel that’s credited with establishing the precedent for Hollywood sequels to be numerically designated (as opposed to “Son of,” “Return of,” etc.)— the difference being that, though it isn’t particularly obscure, it also hasn’t taken on its classic predecessor’s status. But I think John Frankenheimer is close to an ideal directorial stand-in for William Friedkin—with about a decade’s more experience, his approach is less unconventional, less documentary-like, for its time, but still has plenty of grit and energy. The ‘70s were a hard decade for the director, very much a figure of the ‘60s, but in general his track record was much more consistent than Friedkin’s, and this might be his best work of the decade (certainly better than his 1979 killer bear epic Prophecy). The eye for European locations—the premise sees Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle visiting Marseille to chase Frog One—is as good as you’d expect from the maker of Grand Prix, and Hackman, by now an established and not the breakout star of the original, has an unforgettable monologue going through cold turkey after the bad guys hook him on heroin—it’s as flagrantly contrived an acting showcase as any of the big scenes in a P.T. Anderson picture, but none the less thrilling for it. The ending, though, is what I love best about this movie—one of the most abrupt in movie history (next to the original The Mechanic) and one of those things you can only imagine happening in a studio movie in the ‘70s.
Report to the Commissioner (1975; Milton Katselas)
Fun City-era New York City can carry with for some cinephiles—probably mostly those whose experience of it is limited to seeing films like The French Connection, Serpico, and Taxi Driver—almost nostalgic associations. Just to see that time and place again,Report to the Commissioner, a late entry in the early ‘70s cycle of gritty cop thrillers, will be a treat for a certain kind of viewer (like me). Michael Moriarty plays a hopelessly callow rookie detective, a long-haired, well-brought-up and liberally-educated cop’s kid recruited with vague hopes of bridging the generation gap. Instead, he winds up in a nightmarish amount of trouble. The script’s flashback-driven structure is a little clunky—the idea of framing the story within the titular document doesn’t quite work—but there are also some truly effective sequences, particularly the centerpiece—a unique, claustrophobic version of a Mexican standoff. It’s fun seeing early appearances by actors like Richard Gere (whose oily supporting part as a pimp might as well be predicting what some people later won’t like about Gere the movie star) and the usually professorial, gentle Bob Balaban in uncommonly disheveled form, as a disabled Vietnam vet. Best of all, though, is Yaphet Kotto, as a veteran cop who feels that, as a black man, he’s expected to be doubly tough on the people he deals with. After the past two years’ events in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, his role rings true in unsettling ways, but it’s also good to see Kotto with material that allows him to show what a great actor he could be.