Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '77 - Eric Hillis ""

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Underrated '77 - Eric Hillis

Eric Hillis is a freelance film critic and editor of themoviewaffler.com.
On Twitter:
https://twitter.com/themoviewaffler
https://twitter.com/HillisEric
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Cross of Iron
Given the current climate, viewers may not have an appetite for a WWII drama from the German side, but Sam Peckinpah’s adaptation of Willi Heinrich’s 1956 novel The Willing Flesh turns the invasion of Russia into an angry class conflict between a working class Sergeant (James Coburn) and his aristocratic superior (Maximillian Schell), who has transferred to the Russian front with an eye on winning the coveted Iron Cross. The movie ends with a Brecht quote that’s sadly eternally relevant - Don’t rejoice in his defeat, you men
For though the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.
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3 Women
Popular opinion has Robert Altman’s golden era ending with his 1975 masterpiece Nashville, but the second half of the decade saw him deliver some under-rated gems, including this one, a drama so obtuse it likely never would have gotten made had Altman’s reputation been so strong at this point. Shelley Duvall is the airhead beautician who befriends a mysterious young woman, played by Sissy Spacek at the peak of her powers. Over the course of the film both women appear to switch personalities. Imagine Sam Shepard remaking Mulholland Drive and you’ll get the idea.
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Exorcist II: The Heretic
Few sequels are as universally reviled as John Boorman’s, but come on folks, if this wasn’t following in the footsteps of William Friedkin’s beloved shocker, we’d all be raving about it. Boorman takes the franchise in a completely different direction, delivering a big budget arthouse horror. With a manic Morricone score and some stunning imagery, it offers a glimpse of what Argento or Fulci might have given us had Hollywood thrown its resources at them.
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The Car
TV writer Lane Slate was responsible for a string of small screen movies revolving around put upon Sheriffs investigating strange occurrences in quirky small towns. He transferred this concept to the big screen in some style with his contribution to the screenplay for Elliott Silverstein’s thriller, in which a demonic car terrorises Sheriff James Brolin’s dusty desert town. None of the subsequent killer car movies can hold a candle to this one, thanks to jaw dropping set-pieces and Slate’s charming depiction of small town life.
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Black Sunday
John Frankenheimer’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel flopped like a burst blimp on its release. At the time, its plot – terrorists commandeer a Goodyear blimp and fly it into a football stadium – seemed ludicrous, but history has sadly proven it all too prophetic. Today it plays like a docudrama, and the focus on the story’s villain, an embittered white man played by a rarely better Bruce Dern, makes it particularly resonant.
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Soldier of Orange
Before helping to define high concept Hollywood with the likes of Robocop and Basic Instinct, Paul Verhoeven established himself as the Netherlands’ premier auteur with films like this gritty WWII thriller. Verhoeven regulars Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbe play a pair of Dutch students who become embroiled in their nation’s resistance against the German occupying forces. A huge hit in the Netherlands, Soldier of Orange has gone largely unseen elsewhere and makes for a perfect double bill with Verhoeven’s later resistance thriller Black Book.
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Day of the Animals
In a mere six years prior to his untimely death at the age of 30, William Girdler directed no less than nine movies, every one a must see for fans of ‘70s exploitation cinema. Having scored a hit with the previous year’s Grizzly, Girdler was awarded a relatively large budget for this animal attacks thriller. Grizzly leads Christopher George and Richard Jaeckel return, but it’s a pre-Airplane Leslie Nielsen who steals the show as the narcissistic villain. One of the first movies to integrate the depletion of the ozone layer into its plot.
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Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals
Not to be confused with the Sylvia Kristel starring Emmanuelle series, Emanuelle (sic) and the Last Cannibals is an entry in director Joe D’Amato’s Black Emanuelle series of opportunistic rip-offs. D’Amato’s Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) was a globe-trotting journalist, and in this instalment she finds herself captured by a tribe of Amazonian man-eaters while researching her latest story. Despite featuring a perpetually naked Gemser, the Black Emanuelle movies are largely yawn-inducing, but this one is a standout, not only the peak of the series but one of the earliest and best Italian Cannibal movies.
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Zoltan: Hound of Dracula
Also known as Dracula’s Dog, Zoltan was the best of a small batch of possessed pooch thrillers that emerged in the late ‘70s. The bonkers plot involves a dog bitten by Dracula who travels to the US to track down the only remaining ancestor of the Count, a suburban father currently enjoying a camping trip with his all-American family. Directed by Albert Band, whose son Charles would build the Full Moon empire, the film boasts one of the most unforgettable final shots in ‘70s horror cinema, and every kid will come away wanting their own Zoltan pup.
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Snowbeast
The ‘70s was the golden age of the made for TV horror movie, and this Yeti thriller was one of the best. A very ‘70s cast including Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux and Clint Walker battles a snow Sasquatch (which looks a lot like the creature that kidnaps Luke in The Empire Strikes Back) terrorising a Colorado ski resort. This one is penned by Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano, and is a must see for monster movie buffs.
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