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11 February 2012

The 70's in Cinema Part 2

<<<Part 1

How can you forget “Star Wars”, the phenomenal film that blew audiences away with it's whole new universe of characters. The film is definitely a magnificent leap for Sci-Fi and Adventure and not to mention the film is fantastic. Although I would not call it a film in my top five, it is still a magnificently entertaining film. It was nominated for best picture, but lost to “Annie Hall” strangely enough. “Star Wars” has become a worldwide icon with its characters, quotes and scenes reappearing in media all over the place. Look at The Simpsons, Family Guy’s Blue Harvest, the various adverts featuring the famous theme and characters and so many shows and films have quoted this film. “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, your my only Hope”, a line that would not be forgotten.

Annie Hall was another big film, and one of Woody Allen’s finest productions. It has been a while since I have seen it and I look forward to a second viewing. Allen’s sharply made and intelligent comedy stole the win for best picture in 1977 (up against Star Wars), and to an extent, it deserves it so.

Let us not forget the extraordinary Eraserhead from David Lynch, a truly unconventional film that will definitely make you wonder what you are watching when watching it. The story is linear, but its subtext remains quite unclear, but has been dissected and interpreted over the years. The film looks at the troubles of parenthood, in a strangely horrifying way. The film combines film noir, horror and German expressionism to create a surreal film that would, overtime, gain its cult status.

How can I go without mentioning arguably the most influential horror film since Psycho? If you have not figured it out yet, I am talking of John Carpenter’s, Halloween. Setting the standards for horror films of the future, the film executes excellent suspense through its first-person perspective shots (innovative and quite new for the time) and simplistically horrific and resonant theme. Personally, one of my favourite horror films of all time that even today gives you chills and thrills.

On the final year of the 70’s, we had an outrageously daring comedy based on biblical stories. I am talking course of Life of Brian. I am not sure about audiences outside the U.K, but this is one comedy not to be forgotten. With hilarious performances given by the Monty Python, crew (including John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin), it is one of the finest comedies ever made. To this day it is quoted and referenced, and most people know it for its gleefully grim ending, involving Eric idle signing “Always look on the bright side of life” as he sits on a cross being crucified. 

Another Sci-Fi jump in the 70's, was the release of Alien, a film that combined isolation, horror and Sci-Fi to make a thrilling and suspenseful film. Although I am not a huge fan of the film, it is clear that it is among the influential films of the decade and the Sci-Fi genre. 

Actors of the time:
Not to mention the great directors, but actors new and current were lighting up the screen. Jack Nicholson is my first fine example. Although his first role was a small one in Little Shop of Horrors in 1960, the 70’s Nicholson, the method actor, hit his peak. There was One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown and The Last Detail. Another fine actor who began to gain status was Dustin Hoffman. With performances in Little Big Man, Straw Dogs, Kramer V.S Kramer and Papillion, we was soon becoming a renowned actor.

Robert De Niro is another actor who comes to mind. With terrific performances in The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter and Mean Streets, he is one of my personal favourites. His energised and engaging character that he portrays so well are memorable because of that intimidating vocal tone he uses effectively. Other actors who I felt where great in this decade were Gene Hackman, Woody Allen, Gene Wilder and Al Pacino.

What makes the decade special
Just before the 70’s cinema was becoming tiresome with predictable dramas and stale comedies that lost their attraction, which then led to some studios to have financial issued. This lead to studios being forced to sell props and land and soon after, there was the 70’s. Successful blockbusters and sequels that are guaranteed to make profit. What was the result of this? Some of the greatest films to have ever been created were made during this peak decade.

The 70’s is a ‘post-traditional decade in some ways that pushed the boundaries of filmmaking and some of the greatest directors, many still living, rose to creative brilliance in this year. We have Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Mean Streets) Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Manhattan), Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), David Lynch (Eraserhead) and Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the third Kind, Jaws). Some of which may have started in the late 60’s, but it was the 70’s before they’re real talents started to shine and became recognised.

The decade, when looking back seems to explode with creative talent.  After the motion picture  product code changed to loosen up Hollywood ideas in 1968, films started to get that extra bit extreme. In 1967( a year before the production codes banishment), we had Bonnie & Clyde and in 1969, there was The Wild bunch, two films that were controversial for their violence. Then we hit the 70’s, were directors like Stanley Kubrick proved the power of cinema.

1971, A Clockwork Orange came to be one of the finest examples of the conversion of the 60’s to the 70’s. Violence, sex, alcoholism and crime became more exploited, making films edgier, and more gripping and therefore, introduced new concepts and ideas for filmmakers. It was a time for experimentation, exploitation and excitement. From Salo to Eraserhead, it is easy to see the new changes to Hollywood and the world of cinema ended in a decade of new styles.

Martin Scorsese also shone during this period of time. With films like Taxi Driver and Mean Streets, he was slowly becoming iconic to the business. The same goes for Steven Spielberg, director of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind during the 70’s, which put him on the map. Now, both these directors are considered Hollywood’s greatest, and with their productions throughout the years, it is hard to argue this.

Let us not forget about the overseas filmmakers. Werner Herzog and Raine Fassbender, two German directors were also showing their capabilities. Herzog made Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night, which turned out to be almost as good as the silent original with its dark tone and use of shadows. Fassbender’s unusual romance tale names Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is highly entertaining as it shows disgusting intolerance, and problems with marriage. The film is short and sweet and among my favourite 70’s films, and films in general. Oh and let us not forget Federico Fellini with Roma and whatnot.

The 70’s is ultimately a decade I would love to have lived in. With the passion and artistic brilliance it is hard not to love the films from this decade. There were plenty of low-budgeted successes and some blockbusters that summed it up as a decade of great strength and change in the industry. There were great films I did not give mention to much such as Chinatown, The Deerhunter and Mean Streets. However, to keep this 2-part post a little shorter, I tried to write about the definitive ones that show 70’s cinema at its best, and weirdest. In other words, no one cared what was being made and the world exploded with creativity. To conclude I would like to thank you for reading my post and I would be interested in what you think of 70’s cinema and what your favourite decade is.


  1. I was wondering why you made the cut-off year be 1976... Got a lot of stuff written after you go through the years. Good write-up, EVEN IF you ignored George C. Scott :P

  2. Ironically, I just wrote an essay on this exact topic for my history class. You and I both touched on some similar stuff, and I agree that the seventies was certainly an influential decade for film. What I'm surprised you didn't mention was Apocalypse Now, which is (so I hear) one of the best films of the 70's, and how the 70's improved certain genres for films. You talked about Alien and Cabaret, but I'm surprised you didn't mention The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the immense influence that had, as well as the influence that 1978's Superman had on the comic-book film genre. Oh well, you brought up a lot of good points and this is a solid post nonetheless. I read your first one as well, and congratulations on making it to 300!

  3. Well, I lived through the 70s, but as a child. My family also didn't have much money so I rarely ever got to see a movie. Star Wars might have been only the second or third film I ever saw in a theater. Even though there technically were VCRs and tapes to play on them in the late 70s, those didn't really take off until the 80s, so if you didn't see a movie in the theater, you had to wait a couple of years and watch a censored version on broadcast TV.

  4. The 70s was an era in which filmmakers pushed the boundaries to what you can show on screen, but The Exorcist is an important film, no matter what your personal opinion is of it. It revolutionized the horror, broke the Box Office record (until Jaws came along) and still is, inflation adjusted, the most successful R rated film of all time.

  5. Ah yes, I should have mentioned Rocky Horror. I forgot about some films. I have not seen Apocalypse now yet, so I left it out. Thanks for your comment and reading.

  6. I always wondered what it would be like to be a film buff 30 or 40 years ago, when there was no home media or computers to download, watch and stream movies. It must have been a rich persons hobby, to see 3-7 films in a week in cinemas. Thank you for your comment, interesting story.

  7. I have just went back and mentioned the exorcist, I forgot about it. And yes, regardless of opinion, it is influential. Thanks for reading!

  8. Heisatthemovies12 April 2012 at 18:12

    There is no decade that can be compared to the 70's. It can be divided into 2 parts : the American New Wave (1970-1974) and the early Blockbuster Era (1975-1979) It is post-traditional (as you say) and pre-franchise, sequel, repetition era! The only thing good about contemporary cinema is the large output of independent films and the proliferation of the film festival, Thank you Robert Redford. I like this blog site.

  9. Heisatthemovies12 April 2012 at 18:17

    The thing I remember is how old the theaters were. I saw a British import titled Venom in a NYC Broadway theater after ditching school. I was the only one in the vast theater that dated to the 1920's. And no multiplexes!



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