Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '77 - Gems from Forty Years Ago! ""

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Underrated '77 - Gems from Forty Years Ago!

I have this odd obsession with 1977. It has to do with it being the year STAR WARS first came out in theaters and how I always imagine people trying to choose between that and any of the many other films they could have seen and how a lot of them chose to see STAR WARS two or three times as opposed to seeing something new. As a result, I feel like a lot of 1977 films got overlooked. At the top of the list is William Friedkin's SORCERER which I think may be my favorite movie from that year. Below is a list of others that I also enjoy very much...
THE LATE SHOW (1977; Robert Benton)
One of my absolute favorites and a nice compliment to something like THE LONG GOODBYE in that Altman was a producer on it, so it has a little bit of his vibe while still being more of a straight ahead story. It stars Art Carney as an aging detective who ends up on a case to help Lily Tomlin find her missing cat and as you might expect, it's not nearly as simple as hanging signs and a trip to the local animal shelter. Things go dark and strange in spots as the mismatched duo delved deeper and deeper into a not so nice underworld filled with shady characters and murder.
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HANDLE WITH CARE aka CITIZEN'S BAND (1977; Jonathan Demme)
We lost a great filmmaker in Jonathan Demme this year and he made a ton of excellent films throughout the course of his career. This one is missed often as it has not been widely available for folks to dig in and enjoy. While it may seem rather dated now, CB technology was quite a big deal back when this movie came out and it ends up being the thing that connects a disparate group of oddball characters played by Paul LeMat (who would star in Demme's MELVIN AND HOWARD a few years later), Candy Clark, Bruce McGill, Charles Napier, Roberts Blossom, Ed Begley Jr., Harry Northup and more. In some ways, the film parallels the prominent use of social media today in that a lot of the characters take on different aliases in the CB world. Very interesting entry for Demme and I do hope it get's a decent release on disc some time soon.
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BETWEEN THE LINES (1977; Joan Micklin Silver)
I love me some Joan Micklin Silver movies and this one is in dire need of some attention as it's not gotten much in the way of home video releases (much like CITIZEN'S BAND). The movie deals with an underground newspaper in Boston that is currently staffed by a bunch of aging 60s radicals and what they have to go through when the paper looks like it may be sold to a larger conglomerate. Cast is stellar and includes John Heard (in a great turn prior to his roles in CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER and CUTTER'S WAY), Lindsay Crouse, Jeff Goldblum, Jill Eikenberry, Bruno Kirby, Gwen Welles, Michael J. Pollard, Joe Morton, Lane Smith and Marilu Henner.
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ONE ON ONE (1977; Lamont Johnson)
One of my all-time favorite sports films and the place where my lifelong crush on Annette O'Toole began. Robby Benson plays an outstanding high school basketball player who discovers he's in way over his head when he gets a scholarship and goes to a big city university. His less than patient coach is played with remarkable dickishness by G.D. Spradlin and Annette plays the gal who he may be falling for as she tutors him with his classwork. Great (if dated) score/songs by Seals & Crofts (with lyrics by the great Paul Williams).
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ROLLERCOASTER (1977; James Goldstone)
One of my favorite films from the epic Disaster film cycle of the 1970s and I can't even really explain why. It has to do with the amusement parks that play prominently in the film certainly as well as the casting of both George Segal and Richard Widmark. Timothy Bottoms also plays an solid psycho creep too so that helps. This movie inevitable makes me think of summer and hence I discussed it on our "Summer" episode of the Pure Cinema Podcast:
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THE PACK (1977; Robert Clouse)
This is favorite in the "animals attack" genre for me for sure. A small tourist-y island is overrun by a pack of wild dogs and Joe Don Baker (playing a scientist?!) must deal with them. It's interesting in that this group of dogs is supposed to be made up of animals that were left behind by families staying there for the summer or something. There's even a scene early on of a dad and little boy having to leave their dog as they skedaddle off the island. It's a sad scene because the dad basically just ties the dog to a tree and bails. Anyway, said dog joins the titular "Pack" and becomes evil I guess. So Joe Don and great character actors L.G. Armstrong and Richard B. Schull(among others) find themselves on this island and under siege by this crazy platoon of feral varmints and must fend them off. Pretty simple plot, but nonetheless a good time. Two things I like about this movie are the director and the tagline. The director, Robert Clouse is most notable for his film ENTER THE DRAGON, but I also love him because he did DEADLY EYES. DEADLY EYES is a killer rat movie(one of the best killer rat movies I might add) and one of my favorites in this genre as well. The aforementioned tagline is: "They're not pets anymore." and I think that couldn't be more perfect. 
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THE DEATH OF RICHIE (1977; Paul Wendkos)
Another Robbie Benson headliner - with him starring as a mixed up teen who turns to drugs and things start to unravel for him at home and at school. His folks are played convincingly by Ben Gazzara and Eileen Brennan and Lance "James at 15" Kerwin plays his brother. Watch for Charles Fleischer and Clint Howard as well. I first heard of this one during an interview with Vincent Gallo years ago, where he called it out as one of his personal favorites.
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CANDLESHOE (1977; Norman Tokar)
Jodie Foster starred in this Disney movie with David Niven the year after she made TAXI DRIVER with Scorsese which I find very fascinating. She is part of a group of orphans that runs with an old-timey two-bit criminal named Harry Bundage (Leo McKern) who concocts a scheme to pass her off as the long lost granddaughter to a woman in England who supposedly has hoards of hidden treasure on her property. The old woman is played by Helen Hayes and Niven plays her long time butler. Why Disney had such a fascination with orphans around this time I will never fully understand, but I love Jodie Foster in this kind of streetwise scamp sort of role so I was all in as a kid. My sisters rented this one a bunch on VHS along with MIDNIGHT MADNESS (our grocery/video store had a boatload of live-action Disney films).
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This movie could also be called "Peanuts Go to Summer Camp" as that is the general vibe of it overall. It was a theatrical release as opposed to a made for television production and as a result, I feel like it played far less on TV and less people saw it. As it stands, it is one of my favorite Peanuts stories and it has to do in large part to the river rafting race that the whole gang has to go on and the mean group of kids who are trying their best to sabotage everyone else so they can win. I also talked about this one a bit in our "Summer" episode of Pure Cinema.
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FIRE (1977; Earl Bellamy) 
Another TV Movie - this one featuring the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Vera Miles, Patty Duke, Donna Mills, Neville Brand, Gene Evans and Erik Estrada. Basically, the whole thing starts when an escaped convict starts a small fire to cover his escape and ends up threatening to set an entire mountain town ablaze. Irwin Allen produced this one and it's kind of the same old stuff in terms of disaster movies, but what can I say - I like the same old stuff.
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John Saxon runs shine for a bad guy (William Conrad) until he realizes that how bad he is and how much he is trying to mess with a group of sisters who have inherited their daddy's still (which is direct competition to the bad guys') and then he decides to help them out. Lots of crazy driving and drinking and pretty ladies (like Claudia Jennings, Maureen McCormick and Candice Rialson). Predecessor to THE DUKES OF HAZZARD though THE MOONRUNNERS with James Mitchum is more directly responsible for that.
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SUPERVAN (1977; Lamar Card)
The title says it all. This one is part of the "Vansplotation" craze that cropped up during this decade and it has a special van designed by George Barris. Barris was known as "King of the Kustomizers" as he built a reputation for himself making cars and other vehicles for tons of movies and TV shows during this period. He is probably best known for having designed and built The Batmobile from the 60s TV Series, but also worked on cars for KNIGHT RIDER, MANNIX, THE BANANA SPLITS, and one of my favorites - THE CAR! There's not much to the plot in this one outside of a guy entering his crazy solar-powered van in a wacky competition called "The Freakout". This movie is quite goofy, but I enjoy it and have the poster somewhere in my collection.
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1 comment:

Hal said...

Some faves of mine too; I'm the right age for RACE FOR YOUR LIFE, CHARLIE BROWN and it's still a good time even now. Of course, CITIZEN'S BAND and THE PACK are also highly rewatchable.