The Best Discoveries of 2018: The 1970s
After the 1940s, the 1970s is my favorite decade for movies, although you probably wouldn’t know it from this list, one of the shortest in my 2018 Discoveries posts. For once, I will address each film (or provide links to previous reviews). Let’s jump right in:
The Last of Sheila (1973) is a real treat, a film I discussed earlier this year. I saw it on FilmStruck, but the DVD is available from Warner Archive. It’s totally worth a blind buy.
I can’t decide whether Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977) approaches greatness or is an absolute mess. Burt Lancaster plays a disgruntled former U.S. Air Force general who takes over a missile silo in Montana, threatening to start World War III unless the President discloses information from a top secret report about the truth of the Vietnam War. I’m a big Robert Aldrich fan and this was one of his last directorial efforts. If for no other reason, watch it for the amazing cast which includes Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Paul Winfield, Charles Durning, Joseph Cotten, Melvyn Douglas, Burt Young, Roscoe Lee Browne, Richard Jaeckel, Charles McGraw, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, and others.
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) is a stunner. Maria (Hanna Schygulla) marries a German soldier who immediately heads off to fight in WWII. Maria soon receives word that her husband has been killed. I had no idea (and you probably won’t, either) what Maria was going to do with her life after such news, but I was amazed at what follows. A prolific filmmaker, Rainer Werner Fassbinder made only seven films after this, dying in 1982 at the age of 37.
Vengeance Is Mine (1979) is a Japanese film about a violent killer who genuinely doesn’t understand why he has the urge to kill. Told mostly in flashbacks, we learn who Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata) really is, even as we’re trying to understand his motivations.
I was too young to watch Super Fly (1972) when it came out and I probably wouldn’t have known what to do with the film anyway. Before watching the remake (which I never got around to), I decided to see the original. While dated in many ways, some things haven’t really changed much.
I want to thank Cole and Ericca at The Magic Lantern Podcast for making me aware of the excellent Australian film Wake in Fright (1971). I actually was already aware of it, but their podcast made me seek it out. (It’s streaming now on Amazon Prime, but at the time, I had to get the DVD through interlibrary loan.) I discussed the film briefly here, but I plan on taking a closer look in the near future.
Another excellent (and disturbing) film set in Australia is Walkabout (also 1971) from Nicholas Roeg, who passed away last month. In discussions of Roeg, most people talk about Don’t Look Now (1973) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), and rightfully so, but Walkabout deserves far more attention than it usually gets. It’s the story of a teenage girl (Jenny Agutter) and her 6-year-old brother (Lucien John) who find themselves stranded in the Australian outback. I won’t tell you how they got there, but it’s a story of survival in more ways than one. It’s a survival story that’s often difficult to watch, but definitely worth it.
The Castle of Sand (1974) is another film that doesn’t get talked about enough (at least in this country), so I did my part and included it in my Noirvember 2018 viewing.
10 Rillington Place (1971) was one of the most disturbing films I saw this year. The cast (including Richard Attenborough, John Hurt, and Judy Geeson) is excellent, but the story of real-life British serial killer John Christie (Attenborough) is one I’ll probably never watch again.
Going in Style (1979) is one of those movies I avoided for decades, thinking it would be just too cute, about three old guys (George Burns, Art Carney, Lee Strasberg), bored with old age, who decide to rob a bank. The movie doesn’t set out to make these guys cute (which is what I heard was only one of the problems with the 2017 remake starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin), but instead focuses on friendship, identity, and much more. The ending contains a line from George Burns that I’ll never forget. Please see this.
Next: my discoveries from the 1980s
Photos: Roger Ebert, The AV Club, Vanity Fair, Flavorwire, Streamline