"Thirty Top Cult Films of the 1970s"
1. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975, Jim Sharman)
The mother of all cult films. "Dammit, Janet... "
2. PINK FLAMINGOS (1975, John Waters)
A trailer-park family has a rivalry with neighbors to see who is more
disgusting. Features a sex scene with a rooster, visits from the Egg Lady and
the famous final scene where a 300-pound transvestite munches on poodle
droppings. See it with someone you love.
3. ERASERHEAD (1977, David Lynch)
David Lynch's midnight classic Eraserhead blends paranoia, claustrophobia,
and the ultra macabre into a truly unique story about a young man whose life
changes dramatically when his girlfriend gives birth to a grotesque,
premature baby. That's not a plot summary but merely one event in a surreal,
goulish web of actions that defy placement in a linear narrative. A striking
and original debut of an important director.
4. SUSPIRIA (1977, Dario Argento)
A young American woman finds horror at a bizarre European ballet school. The
fact that the plot is incomprehensible only adds to the hallucinogenic
atmosphere. Great, ear-splitting music track.
5. VANISHING POINT (1971, Richard C. Sarafian)
For no particular reason, a driver starts racing at maximum speed across the
American West, and police try to catch him. He's egged on by a blind,
philosophical black DJ in a storefront radio station. Sort of a very
minimalist Road Warrior; long stretches of the film are just engine noise
and desert racing by.
6. ENTER THE DRAGON (1973, Robert Clouse)
Bruce Lee in his cult-making kung-fu epic. Lee plays an adventurer who
infiltrates the island of a mad scientist bent on taking over the world, and
soon finds himself battling the villian's minions. An enjoyable comic book
film filled with spectacular karate fights, all of which display Lee at his
balletic and shrieking best.
7. THE HARDER THEY COME (1973, Perry Henzell)
A poor Jamaican becomes a gangster and a fugitive. Like a blaxploitation
flick but with patois and a great reggae soundtrack. The first native
Jamaican feature, the movie has an absorbing sense of place and a fierce
anticolonial bent, and places the hero's fight in the larger political
context of freedom from oppression.
8. IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (1976, Nagisa Oshima)
In feudal Japan, a servant-girl and her master have sex obsessively, leading
to murder and genital amputation. A "serious" art film, by a well-known
director, but in pornographic detail. Incidentally, stunts like the "egg
scene" are ubiquitous in Japanese porn for some reason.
9. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974, Tobe Hooper)
One of the most revoltingly gory cheap horror films ever made -- with graphic
depictions of meathook impalings, pickaxes in the head, and freshly
dismembered corpses -- this is also, undeniably, one of the best, with young
Hooper taking exploitative violence into previously unexplored realms.
10. FRITZ THE CAT (1972, Ralph Bakshi)
One of the few Ralph Bakshi animated features to have some genuine audacity
and wit. R. Crumb's classic comic-book cat becomes friendly, collegiate,
irrepressibly horny creature who gets pulled into a series of erotic
misadventures, including an imaginatively drawn ghetto sequence.
11. DARK STAR (1974, John Carpenter)
Director John Carpenter's first film is a maniacally brilliant satire of
2001. A spaceship has been sent on a mission to destroy unstable planets,
and its crew has finally gone stir crazy. A very funny and incisive look at
human nature, with some great slapstick moments. Also the "inspiration" for
Mystery Science Theater 3000.
12. THE WICKER MAN (1973, Michael Winner)
A priggish constable investigates an English town which seems to practice
paganism. Created by playwright Peter Shaffer (Sleuth), this clever puzzle
with a great ending is perhaps too schematic for its own good, but
nonetheless constitutes an unusual diversion with a potent subtext.
13. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1973, Meir Zarchi)
This still-notorious film now seems tame in the gore and nudity departments,
but its violence against women is still outrageous. A writer in a rural town
is raped and beaten by a gang of men, and then one by one stalks and kills
them. Shot in a blank, unemotional style which paradoxically makes it very
intense. Not for children or feminists of any age.
14. CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER (1974, Brian Clemens)
Vampires who kill the young to obtain their youth. But this is so unlike the
typical vampire film that one hesitates to call it one. An admirable attempt
to inject new life into an old genre.
15. ANDY WARHOL'S BAD (1977, Jed Johnson)
One of the smartest, nastiest urban satires of the 1970s, a film that
succeeds with just about every disgusting risk it takes. Carroll Baker gives
a near-perfect performance as Hazel Aiken, a no-nonsense bussinesswoman who
runs an electrolysis solon by day and an assassination agency by night. The
grimy look and deadpan acting are wholly appropriate to Bad's dry look at a
New York whose residents seem to be members of a mutual insanity pact. The
satirists know their business here -- they mean to appall you and then make
you question that reaction. If you're very open-minded, they succeed.
16. DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (1971, Harvey Kumel)
A young couple bumps into a vampire countess at a Belgian resort, where the
husband (John Karlen) grows increasingly surly as his wife is lured away.
Based on the legend of Elisabeth Bathory, it strikes multiple blows for
feminism and may be the best lesbian vampire movie ever made.
17. BREWSTER MCCLOUD (1970, Robert Altman)
Robert Altman's M*A*S*H follow-up is this peculiar social comedy about a
young man who is teaching himself to fly while living beneath the Houston
Astrodome. When the recluse looks like the prime suspect in several murder
cases, a hotshot detective is soon on his trail. Not the director's funniest
or most profound work, but an intriguing effort nonetheless.
18. THE HONEYMOON KILLERS (1969, Leonard Kastle)
This grisly, low-budget thriller was based on the case of two multiple
murderers who were executed at Sing Sing in 1951. Tony Lo Bianco and Shirley
Stoler are an unusual but effective match as the killers who pose as a nurse
and her brother to murder lonely, wealthy women after stripping them of their
savings. Grisly hammer scene.
19. PERFORMANCE (1970, Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg)
A gangster hides out in a house with a decadent rock star portrayed, in a
real acting stretch, by Mick Jagger. The two personalities begin to merge,
the macho gangster experiencing with drugs and perversity and the singer
discovering violence and cruelty. The film has a perverse, creepy
fascination; even when it's being quite vile, it is more viscerally vile that
almost any other film. Loaded with every arty trick that the two first-time
directors could think of, it was originally released with an X rating,
although were it to be released nowadays it would probably have to be spiced
up to be insured an R.
20. BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970, Russ Meyer)
All Russ Meyer fans know this is among the sleaze king's sleaziest. The
Carrie-Nations -- a lively all-girl rock band -- travel to Los Angeles,
where they meet enigmatic rock mogul Z-Man Barzel and plunge headlong into
his wild world of drugs, parties, and kinky sex. Written by movie critic
Roger Ebert, the film's final scenes are tasteless and incompetent to an
almost perversely funny degree.
21. DECOY FOR TERROR (1970, Enrick Santamaran)
No-budget Canadian horror about a deranged artist with a nasty habit of
killing and freezing his models when he no longer has use for their squirming
and pouting. Cool climax: a power outage causes one, frozen posed with a bow
and arrow, to release the arrow, killing the artist who's just finished his
masterpiece. Also features an unfortunate singing appearance by Neil
Sedaka. (a.k.a. The Playgirl Killer)
22. DUEL (1971, Steven Spielberg)
This oddball existentialist drama pits a lone driver (Dennis Weaver) against
a mysterious, death-dealing tractor rig. Steven Spielberg attracted a lot of
attention for his flashy, highly edited style of direction in a vehicle that
could only be made for TV. The absolute Big Daddy of anthropomorphic
23. MEAN STREETS (1973, Martin Scorsese)
An electrifying portrait of a troubled young man's fall from grace in a local
Mafia family, set to the beat of the Rolling Stones and the Ronettes, and
enriched by a palpable evocation of New York City. The movie is a jazzed
junkyard of burned-out characterizations, and arguably has the best use of
rock'n'roll in a motion picture.
24. R.P.M.: The only thing that could beat Ann-Margret playing a campus
radical is Anthony Quinn as a left-leaning, motorcycle-riding professor named
Taco. R.P.M. offers both.
25. GET CARTER: Cool Brit flick starring Michael Cain, who pisses off an
entire railway pub by ordering his bitter "in a thin glass."
26. SCALPEL: Suspense film involving an amoral young woman and plastic
surgery. Interesting, twisty plot.
27. HIT LADY: Women's lib comes knocking in sharp threads: Yvette Mimeux as a
28. SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE: Strange European film about childhood and death.
29. GATES OF HEAVEN: Digressive "documentary" about a pet cemetary.
30. EL TOPO: Allegorical film about a desert wanderer.
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