Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '77 - Patrick Bromley ""

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Underrated '77 - Patrick Bromley

Patrick Bromley is the Editor-in-Chief of F This Movie! ( and a contributor to Daily Dead and Blumhouse. He hosts the F This Movie! podcast and is a co-host of the horror-themed podcast Corpse Club.

As far as movies are concerned, 1977 is mostly remembered as the year of Star Wars. But as this list and all of the other lists in this series demonstrate, there were a LOT of great movies released in Darth Vader’s shadow. 1977 was a time when exploitation films and drive-ins were still a going concern, giving way to a huge list of titles that may have gotten overlooked in the short term but which are just as worthy of our praise and attention. Here are but a few of them.

Eaten Alive (dir. Tobe Hooper) 
If my boy T. Hoops released a movie that isn’t The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Poltergeist in any given year, there’s good chance I’m going to put it on a list like this. Though it has seen its reputation restored in recent years (in part thanks to Arrow Video’s gorgeous Blu-ray), Eaten Alive is still as underrated as the majority of Tobe Hooper’s filmography. It was hurt in the late ‘70s because it isn’t TCM, but that’s by design; while TCM is unrelenting and feels authentic to the point of being documentary, Eaten Alive takes the opposite approach and embraces artifice. The atmosphere is still just as sweaty and heightened to the point of hysteria, but the sets are obviously sets, the lighting colorful and exaggerated. Even the wigs are terrible. This is the movie that tells us much more about who Tobe Hooper is as a filmmaker than Texas Chain Saw did.
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First Love (dir. Joan Darling) 
This romantic drama about college students is like Love Story without all the sickness. William Katt plays Elgin, a soccer player who falls for Caroline (Susan Dey), a wealthy girl currently involved with a married man (played by Robert Loggia). On a technical level, First Love often feels like a made-for-TV movie, but the screenplay is so honest about falling in love, having your heart broken and (especially) sex that it becomes something special. It also features terrific performances from Katt, Dey (who should have had a bigger film career based on her work in this movie), the late John Heard, and Beverly D’Angelo, who is the real standout as a girl who has gotten used to falling in love with men who do not appreciate her.
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The Heroin Busters (dir. Enzo Castellari) 
Another really fun Italian crime film that teams David Hemmings with Fabio Testi as cops working to take down a drug ring. There are amazing foot chases, motorcycle chases, and, best of all, airplane chases, plus a great score by Goblin. This was my first exposure to Fabio Testi, who is so charismatic and cool on screen in The Heroin Busters that it made me a fan for life.
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Hitch-Hike (dir. Pasquale Festa Campanile) 
Yes, it’s incredibly sleazy and rapey, but you might have guessed that as soon as you see the name David Hess in the opening credits. He plays a hitchhiker who holds a married couple, played by Franco Nero and Corinne ClĂ©ry, hostage after they pick him up. This one is almost impossible to predict; just when you think it can’t go any darker, it finds a way to out-ugly all them sons of bitches. For all of its sleaze and exploitation movie trappings, Hitch-Hike is actually a grim examination of a marriage that’s falling apart.
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Mannaja (aka A Man Called Blade) (dir. Sergio Martino) 
One of my very favorite westerns is this grimy, violent film directed by the great Sergio Martino and starring Maurizio Merli as a bounty hunter who takes a job rescuing a kidnapped girl but is betrayed and seeks bloody vengeance. Yes, it’s the plot of a lot of spaghetti westerns, but that’s only because it’s the best plot. Mannaja has the violence of a horror movie and a brilliant theme song that sounds like Leonard Cohen by way of Rammstein. Have I mentioned I love this movie?
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Moonshine County Express (dir. Gus Trikonis) 
Raucous drive-in fun from New World Pictures about a family of moonshining sisters (including Susan Howard, a grown up Maureen McCormick and the glorious Claudia Jennings) who team up with a driver played by John Saxon (!) to take down the county’s top bootlegger. Ten times more fun or entertaining than any episode of Dukes of Hazzard, this one is pure Southern-fried gold.
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Stunts (dir. Mark L. Lester) 
A murder mystery on a movie set! A film about the world of stunt people! Something that stars Robert Forster! Yes, Stunts scratches a lot of my specific itches, and it does it in a really cool way. Forster is at his DGAF best as Glen, a stuntman who comes to a film set after his brother is killed during a stunt. Mark L. Lester is destined to be forever underrated as a director, with a number of terrific genre movies to his credit. This is yet another one that deserves to be rediscovered.
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Once again, I want to thank Brian Saur and Rupert Pupkin Speaks for inviting me to participate in this series. I love this blog, I love these lists and I love both the Just the Discs and Pure Cinema podcasts, all of which have provided me with a seemingly endless list of titles to add to my “to watch” list. It’s an honor to be even a small part of something that celebrates movies in such a positive and passionate way. Thanks, Brian!

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