Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '76 - Troy Anderson ""

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Underrated '76 - Troy Anderson

Troy Anderson is a veteran movie reviewer who has been doing his thing online for many years. Currently, his reviews can be found at www.andersonvision.com.
He's @AVCentral on Twitter.
------
MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976; Peter Yates)
Mother, Jugs & Speed is one of my favorite comedies ever made. Only in the mid-1970s could a film about rival ambulance companies undermining the safety of Los Angeles to one up each other. Hell, the lead characters are a receptionist, a rude African American and a former Sheriff’s Department Detective that got busted selling cocaine to kids. This film has it all; Fat people getting stuck in buildings, Dick Butkus and Larry Hagman practically raping an unconscious college student. I’ve said it before, but no one could touch 20th Century Fox in the 1970s.

From a stoned Toni Basil shooting Bruce Davison in the face to a pregnant woman bleeding to death in an ambulance, this movie has something for everyone. Did I mention it was a comedy? Well, while all of this is happening, we have the laughs come in rampant drug use, Hagman’s never-ending boner and sexual harassment claims. But, it’s funny. I know that’s enough to make the Tumblr crowd start screaming “Problematic” like a nation of Lemongrab clones.

What makes this film so underrated is that it was last truly mature and great role that Cosby mastered before diving into the world of Cliff Huxtable. On top of that, there’s a part of me that wishes we got to see a world where Larry Hagman and Harvey Keitel became comedy superstars.

GATOR (1976; Burt Reynolds)
Gator is Reynolds’ follow-up to White Lightning. Honestly, it’s one of the rare cases where the sequel trounces the original. The film opens on Gator getting out of prison after the events of the first movie. Mike Douglas playing The Governor of Georgia (wrap your head around that) cuts a deal for Gator to bring down his best friend Bama McCall. McCall (played by Jerry Reed) has been running a protection racket between Florida and Georgia, but the Feds want it busted up. This leads to enough high speed boat chases to make Sterling Archer cream his jeans.

Lauren Hutton shows up as the gap-toothed love interest, but this isn’t about her. What makes this film so insane is that Reynolds lifted the Blaxploitation formula of AIP and others to make a similar movie about white rednecks. While not quite true Hicksploitation, the film is a celebration of the Gulf Coast mentality. Reynolds being a Florida native uses every inch of the landscape to paint a portrait of a Good Ol’ Boy doing what it takes to make things right. Plus, that poster is amazing. If I were younger, I’d want that spray painted across the hood of a Trans Am.

ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II (1976; Susan Winslow)
All This and World War II is another FOX cult film of the era that bombed. Mixing footage of World War II with 1940s FOX isn’t a new concept, as Phillipe Mora has done something similar with WB film clips. It’s just that it’s such an odd film that grows even odder to the lack of a home video release. I only discovered the film after being handed a DVD-R by a reader back in 2010. Needless to say, musical rights clearance will probably keep this film from ever hitting video.

The soundtrack is the film’s strength, as it boasts Beatles hits covered by everyone from Tina Turner to Leo Sayer to Elton John and even Frankie Valli. What makes this film different than the later release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club is the lack of a need for a forced story. The covers play better without the need for disco influence. The film is an oddity that plays like a documentary meant for stoners. I’d love it if Criterion or Shout would at least attempt to bring this to a new audience.

DIXIE DYNAMITE (1976; Lee Frost)
Dixie Dynamite is one of the first major releases from genre mainstay Dimension. Warren Oates leads a cast of outlaws trying to fight a corrupt Sheriff over moonshining. Jane Anne Johnstone and Kathy McHaley play the two outlaw daughters trying to avenge their father’s murder. The problem is that the girls only know about moonshining. Enter Warren Oates to teach the little ladies about how to drink and drive motorcycles.

Many of the car crashes and inspired wrecks from Death Proof would be lifted directly from the film. Honestly, there’s no better Grindhouse film to honor. Somewhere between the Duane Eddy power chords, Warren Oates seemingly driving drunk for real and Christopher George playing one of the best corrupt Southern sheriffs…it all just comes together. Those with a keen eye might be able to spot Steve McQueen as the lead motorcycle stunt driver. McQueen picked up the job after being out of work for a bit.

THE MISSOURI BREAKS (1976; Arthur Penn)
The Missouri Breaks is everything that a Revisionist Western can be in the right hands. Nicholson plays a rustler who just wants to screw over a local land baron that acts as the law of the land. Eventually the land baron gets tired of not picking off Nicholson, so he hires regulator Marlon Brando to hunt down Nicholson and his gang. Brando was at peak weirdness in this film. Dressing like a dandy with an Irish brogue, Brando hunts down each of Nicholson’s gang in an almost Punisher style way. One of the best death scenes caught on film is Brando dragging Randy Quaid by his throat through the raging Missouri River. Quaid fights and fights, but Brando keeps playing with the dying man.

The rest of Nicholson’s men die by sniping and Brando cross dressing to kill Nicholson’s best friend. Watching Nicholson break down near the end of the movie, so that he can brutally slaughter Brando is amazing. It’s just that the film carries on too long to feature Nicholson wiping out the initial land baron. So much of the film’s momentum ends when Brando dies and I think that’s what cost the film upon its initial release. Arthur Penn is an incredible director, but I’d have to argue that this was his best film. Yeah, even better than Bonnie & Clyde.

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME (1976; Peter Clifton/Joe Massot)
The Song Remains the Same is the greatest concert film ever made. This is coming from a lifelong “Stop Making Sense” fan. The documentary runs nearly 2 ½ hours of concert and interview footage, but even that can’t work for a film about Led Zeppelin. That’s where we get the fantasy sequences that simply ruin any natural flow in the film. The band’s manager is a gangster, John Paul Jones reads to his kids, John Bonham drag races and Robert Plant seemingly enacts the Wonderboy video 30 years before it happened.

This was the last gasp of the grandiose rock musical. There were later attempts to recapture this magic, but MTV killed the demand for this sort of affair. Film fans and Zeppelin die-hards will know that the film is a lie. The concert footage was shot at multiple venues, Pittsburgh doubled for NYC in many shots and the entire film was re-recorded on a stage in Shepperton. When you’re a teenager, this is the kind of film that blows your socks off. Now, I just wonder how many monster bong hits this took to happen. Still, it’s a moment in time that can never be recaptured and goes ignored by newer Classic Rock fans.

No comments: