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 Popular Seventies Movies - P-Z

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THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK
Drama, 1971, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Al Pacino, Kitty Winn, Alan Vint, Richard Bright. Directed by Jerry Schatzberg. 110 min.

videos bullet iconThis film probes the needle subculture of New York City -- where love and betrayal, harrowing humor, and tragedy pivot on a pinpoint. Director Jerry Schatzberg and Al Pacino (in his first starring role) have tapped veins of both irony and pathos, but the subplot in which Pacino pulls the upscale Kitty Winn into the sordid depths injects the plot with real tragedy. Scripted by "New Journalists" Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, and scored with scathing street sounds instead of music, Panic has a startling near-documentary buzz. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE PAPER CHASE
Comedy, 1973, USA, PG, * * *
Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, John Houseman, Graham Beckel, Edward Herrmann, Craig Richard Nelson. Directed by James Bridges. 111 min.

videos bullet iconLong a favorite among college students and uncertain pre-professionals, this engaging comedy-drama tells of a first-year law student in an intellectual wrangle with a brilliant, imperious professor (John Houseman) and a romantic one with his daughter (Lindsay Wagner). Director James Bridges, shooting at Harvard and in Canada, perfectly captures the imposing, scary architectural grandeur of an Ivy League college, and Timothy Bottoms is fine as the scholar unwittingly caught in a war of wills. The script, however, has scenes of pomposity and ineptitude, and the tone of much of the film, especially the ending, is pure 1970s disillusionment-is-so-romantic drivel. But the ecclesiastical atmosphere of a law school is splendidly conveyed, and Houseman, who won an Academy Award for this film, brilliantly distills every student's greatest fears into one unforgettable characterization. The film later became an acclaimed television series that ran, first on network, then on cable, for several years. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PAPER MOON
Comedy, 1973, USA, PG, * * *
Ryan O'Neal, Tatum O'Neal, Madeline Kahn, John Hillerman, P.J. Johnson, Randy Quaid. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. 101 min.

videos bullet iconA Depression America that is alternately homey and hard-bitten is brilliantly evoked in Peter Bogdanovich's sentimental movie about an odd-couple team of con artists. Tatum O'Neal is very good as the orphan who latches onto the small-time flimflam man played by her father. Their comic backchat is funny, though their relationship doesn't change much over the course of the movie. Madeline Kahn almost steals the show as a has-been floozie, and P.J. Johnson holds her own playing a put-upon maid. The movie is really a series of comic vignettes, and it lacks the focus of its source novel, Addie Pray by Joe David Brown. On the whole, however, the movie's machinery clicks along nicely. The combination of Laszlo Kovack's sharp black-and-white photography and contemporary music like "Keep Your Sunny Side Up" and "Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee" generates an authentic feel. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PAPILLON
Action/Adventure, 1973, USA, PG, * * *
Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Victor Jory, Don Gordon, Anthony Zerbe, Bill Mumy, George Coulouris, Gregory Sierra. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. 150 min.

videos bullet iconPopular, engrossing but overlong film based on the memoirs of Henri Charriere, who escaped from the infamous penal colony of Devil's Island after eight attempts. Much of the film's time is spent detailing the horrors of prison life, and, without becoming overtly sadistic or horrifying, it is a numbing experience. Steve McQueen is very good in a more restrained role than usual; Dustin Hoffman is likewise good as a counterfeiter also sentenced to the prison, a variation on his Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy. The film should have been at least twenty minutes shorter, though. However, it has a screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr., and Dalton Trumbo, who has a bit part at the beginning of the film as the prison commandant. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE PARALLAX VIEW
Mystery/Suspense, 1974, USA, R, * * *
Warren Beatty, Paula Prentiss, Hume Cronyn, William Daniels. Directed by Alan J. Pakula. 102 min.

videos bullet iconConspiracy buffs will enjoy this Watergate-era thriller about a journalist who becomes the last surviving witness of a political assasination. His investigation leads him to a truth that's far worse than his nightmares. Alan J. Pakula has crafted a generally fine suspense film, blending everything from a fictionalized Warren Commission to a Satanic CIA into a heady brew of perceptive paranoia. It's marred only by a disappointing (although logical) conclusion. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID
Western, 1973, USA, R, * * *
Kris Kristofferson, James Coburn, RIchard Jaeckel, Chill Wills, Jason Robards, Bob Dylan, Rita Coolidge, Barry Sullivan, Elisha Cook, Jr. Directed by Sam Peckinpah. 106 min.

videos bullet iconJames Coburn, aging but still elegant, pursues his one-time outlaw friend across an emotional landscape streaked with a kind of ambiguous half-light. Both Billy and Garrett are tarnished by life, or rather the love-and-death chain that links them. That this kind of romantic and repressive masculine love should be expressed in images redolent of the grave seems entirely accurate. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is a whole necrology of the West. It's brilliant in parts, so allow the rest to slide by...not dificult given Bob Dylan's soundtrack. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PATTON
Drama, 1970, USA, GP, * * * *
George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, Karl Michael Volger, Edward Bines, Tim Considine. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. 173 min.

videos bullet iconSubtitled "Salute to a Rebel," this film about one of World War II's most notorious hawks was a risky venture at a time when America was torn apart over the issue of its involvement in Vietnam; that the film was a major hit testifies to its objective treatment of General George S. Patton, a man who had his own ideas about how wars should be fought regardless of what his superiors thought. George C. Scott gives an astounding performance, both hero and lunatic at the same time. Director Franklin J. Schaffner achieves the equally amazing feat of not letting Scott overwhelm the rest of the film, with brilliantly panoramic re-creations of some of the major battles of the war. Both star and director won Oscars (although Scott declined to accept his); the film also won awards for Best Picture, screenplay (Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North), sound, editing, and set direction. A made-for-TV sequel, The Last Days of Patton aired in 1986. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PERFORMANCE
Drama, 1970, Great Britain, X, * * 1/2
Mick Jagger, James Fox, Anita Pallenberg, Michelle Breton. Directed by Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg. 106 min.

videos bullet iconIn any objective sense, Performance is not really a very good film, and those who are easily aroused to moral indignation by the decadence of our time would be well-advised to stay away (as would those who are easily bored). But for the more jaded and/or indulgent, this does have a perverse, creepy fascination; even when it's being quite vile, it is more viscerally vile than almost any other film. The bare-bones plot has James Fox as a gangster hiding out from his ex-cronies in a house owned by retired rock star Mick Jagger. The two personalities begin to merge, the macho gangster experimenting with drugs and perversity and the singer discovering violence and cruelty. Jagger is not a very good actor, though he was called on only to pose here, and he sings only one good song, the striking "Memo from Turner." The film is loaded with every arty trick that the two first-time directors could think of, generally to no solid effect. Don't be misled by the X rating; were this to be released nowadays, they'd probably have to spice it up a bit to be insured an R. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE
Musical, 1974, USA, PG, * * *
Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, George Memmoli, Gerrit Graham. Directed by Brian De Palma. 92 min.

videos bullet iconAn effective rock version of Phantom of the Opera, with William Finley out for revenge against a producer (Paul Williams, miscast but not bad) who stole his songs. A flop in its time -- it was sold as a spoof -- but now finding a cult; ironically, many of the "weird" rock performers (including Gerrit Graham as "Beef") seem pretty tame alongside some of today's artists. Williams also composed the score, and Sissy Spacek was the set decorator! Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM
Comedy, 1972, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Jerry Lacy, Susan Anspach, Jennifer Salt, Joy Bang. Directed by Herbert Ross. 87 min.

videos bullet iconWoody Allen adapted this film's screenplay from his hit Broadway show and enlisted Herbert Ross to direct. The result is funny, sweet, and touching, if less maniacally original than some of the films Allen himself has directed. Allen stars as a lovably neurotic movie buff with a Humphrey Bogart fixation. Following Bogie's example, he finds himself in love with his best friend's wife, played irresistibly by Diane Keaton, and their romance culminates in his dream come true -- replaying the parting scene from Casablanca. The ghost of Bogart materializes in Allen's fantasies: "Dames are simple," Bogart advises. "I've never known one that didn't understand a slap in the mouth or a slug from a .45." An early exploration by Allen of the relationship between cinema and "reality," issues he would later treat more profoundly in Zelig and The Purple Rose of Cairo. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PLAY MISTY FOR ME
Mystery/Suspense, 1971, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills, John Larch, Jack Ging. Directed by Clint Eastwood. 95 min.

videos bullet iconClint Eastwood's directoral debut was this searing thriller about a disc jockey who gets involved with a psychotic fan. Eastwood's use of crosscutting and camera movement to create Hitchockian suspense is surprisingly effective, and Jessica Walter's performance as a jealous, obsessive woman is chillingly realistic. Eastwood would later return to themes of sexual paranoia in Richard Tuggle's Tightrope and his own Dirty Harry epic Sudden Impact. He obviously owes much of his success in this first (and so far best) film, however, to old master Don Siegel (Dirty Harry, The Beguiled), who plays a small role as a bartender. The ending is a cop-out and the Eastwood-Donna Mills romance is conventional, but the film has a compulsive pulp quality that makes it hard not to watch. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT
Comedy, 1972, USA, R, * *
Richard Benjamin, Karen Black, Lee Grant, Jill Clayburgh, Jeannie Berlin, Jack Somack. Directed by Ernest Lehman. 101 min.

videos bullet iconOnce again, Hollywood proves that some books just should not be brought to the big screen. Philip Roth's novel was a brilliantly sustained monologue, in the form of a repressed Jewish man's psychotherapy sessions, that gained notoriety for its Rabelaisian sexual candor, and more precisely, for its hilariously true rendition of masturbatory practices of the American male. The film, however, hardly even tries to incorporate the humanity of Roth's writing, turning it instead into a long Jewish sex joke couched in a ridiculously unlikely unromantic setting (never has a Michael LeGrand score been so inappropriate) to make it "less offensive." If you aren't familiar with the novel, or if you can manage not to compare it with the film, you can at least enjoy good performances by Richard Benjamin, and, more especially, Karen Black, although almost the entire remaining cast probably would like to forget their work here. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE
Action/Adventure, 1972, USA, PG, * * *
Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowell, Stella Stevens, Jack Albertson, Shelley Winters, Leslie Nielsen, Pamela Sue Martin, Arthur O'Connell, Eric Shea. Directed by Ronald Neame. 117 min.

videos bullet iconThis is the first entry in the 1970s' cycle of "disaster" films, and the best by miles. When a luxury liner capsizes beneath a tidal wave, an all-star cast led by rugged priest Gene Hackman must undertake a thrillingly perilous journey to the bottom -- now the top -- of the ship. Although much of the initial exposition is inevitably clumsy, once the wall of water hits, it's action all the way. All of the actors give juicy, caricatured performances, but our favorite is Shelley Winters as the corpulent Jewish mama who insists against all reason that she can undertake a dangerous swim -- she won an Oscar nomination. The movie was produced by Irwin Allen, the real auteur of this genre, who directed some of the action sequences here, and who went on to the spectacles, The Towering Inferno (1974), The Swarm (1978), and the terrible sequel Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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PRETTY BABY
Drama, 1978, USA, R, * *
Keith Carradine, Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields, Frances Faye, Antonio Fargas, Gerrit Graham, Mae Mercer, Diana Scarwid, Barbara Steele. Directed by Louis Malle. 109 min.

videos bullet iconLouis Malle's portrait of a twelve-year-old girl who becomes a prostitute in New Orleans' notorious Storyville is not pornographic -- nor is it particularly engrossing. Though perfectly cast, Brooke Shields remains a very childish twelve-year-old and we never understand why Keith Carradine, pointlessly unappealing as the photographer E.J. Bellocq, falls in love with her. It's a strangely inert movie, though it was photographed by Sven Nykvist and looks absolutely sumptuous. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE
Comedy, 1975, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Jack Lemmon, Anne Bancroft, Gene Saks, Elizabeth Wilson, Florence Stanley, Sylvester Stallone. Directed by Melvin Frank. 99 min.

videos bullet iconNeil Simon at his most clamorous. Adapting his grimly funny play about a high-strung executive driven to the edge of a breakdown by the pressures of New York life, the playwright has turned the city into a headachy conflagraation of noisy garbage trucks, rude neighbors, bad smells, and thin walls. But what could have become a comic study of the Big Apple as a circle of hell is hampered by Melvin Frank's heavy-handed direction and Simon's overreliance on tired, clichéd situations and a rat-a-tat dialogue. As in all of his movies, the fast pace and sharp lines keep it watchable, but everything else about Prisoner is shrill, overemphatic, and familiar. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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QUADROPHENIA
Drama, 1979, Great Britain, R, * * 1/2
Phil Daniels, Mark Wingett, Philip Davis, Leslie Ash, Garry Cooper, Toya Wilcox, Sting (Gordon Summer), Trevor Laird. Directed by Frank Roddam. 120 min.

videos bullet iconFrank Roddam's invigorating punk-rebellion film, loosely based on the 1973 album by The Who, depicts the conflicts between Mods and Rockers circa 1964. The story of an angry-but-sensitive Mod (Phil Daniels) who is led by a series of shocks and betrayals to yearn for more fulfillment than gang life can provide, Quadrophenia becomes a nearly universal rites-of-passage saga. What's hard to fathom is how passionate these kids were about poses and trappings that seem distant to us. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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RACE WITH THE DEVIL
Horror/Science Fiction, 1975, USA, PG, * 1/2
Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker, R.G. Armstrong, Clay Turner. Directed by Jack Starrett. 88 min.

videos bullet iconAs further proof there are some things that money just can't buy, this major studio (Twentieth Century-Fox) attempt to make the kind of action-horror film that small studios and the independents do with such cheesy panache falls flat on its face. The plot is prime Wes Craven stuff, with some vacationing suburbanites taking their motor home to rural Texas, where they encounter a band of backwoods Satanists engaged in human sacrifices; like Craven, director Jack Starrett seems to be drawing parallels between middle-class Americans and their sub-societal counterparts. It doesn't try very hard, or very successfully, and most of this is hackneyed chase and shoot-out stuff. Only Warren Oates and Peter Fonda manage to rise above the material. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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REAL LIFE
Comedy, 1979, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Charles Grodin, Frances Lee McCain, Albert Brooks, J.A. Preston, Matthew Tobin. Directed by Albert Brooks. 99 min.

videos bullet iconPreviously known for his uniquely funny films for the early years of Saturday Night Live, Albert Brooks brings his original brand of humor to the big screen in a hilarous spoof of television's cinéma vérite portraits of "typical American families." In this surprisingly experimental and professional first feature, Brooks cast himself as a documentary filmmaker who will stop at nothing to capture "real life" on film. Charles Grodin and Francis Lee McCain are excellent as the hapless couple whose life he invades. Brooks's whining, manic-depressive style of comedy is an acquired taste but once acquired, it will leave you rolling in the aisles with laughter. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ROCKY
Drama, 1976, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young, Carl Weathers. Directed by John G. Avildsen. 119 min.

videos bullet iconOne of the film trivia questions in future years may be: What was the only film for which Sylvester Stallone won a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination? At least as of the 1990s, it's Rocky, the sweet boxing fable about a down-and-out Philly slugger who gets one miraculous shot at the champ. If you've never seen it, separate yourself from the deification of the of the title character that occurred in the sequels. You'll find a well-told tale with an outlook at once inspirational and ironic, beautiful performances (not the least of which is Stallone's), and strong, gritty direction by John G. Avildsen that helped make the Best Picture Oscar winner the sleeper hit of the 1970s. Despite the often execrable work that Stallone has done more recently, Rocky still stands as an uplifting winner, with full credit belonging to its creator-star. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ROCKY II
Drama, 1979, USA, PG, * *
Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith. Directed by Sylvester Stallone. 119 min.

videos bullet iconSylvester Stallone took over directorial chores from John Avildsen for this follow-up to his 1976 smash, with the predictable result being the first appearance of the halo above the title character's head. About the best one can say for Rocky II is that it's a crowd-pleaser, less a sequel than a slick second round to a boxing saga that apparently will never end. (You don't have to be a genius to figure out early that the film ends with a rematch between Rocky and nemesis Apollo Creed.) The film is best in the early scenes, which pick up right where Rocky left off and bring back most of the vigor of the first film's climax. But the odd, charming details and human scope of Rocky are wholly absent here, and Stallone gives his fellow actors offensively short shrift. In light of what followed, one wishes he had left well enough alone. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL
Comedy, 1979, USA, PG, * * * *
P.J. Soles, Mary Woronov, Vince Van Patten, Paul Bartel, The Ramones. Directed by Allan Arkush. 84 min.

videos bullet iconPart camp, pure rock & roll, this low-budget 1979 classic featuring iconic New York punk band The Ramones was produced by legendary cult flick director Roger Corman. The Ramones compensate for their bad acting with their greatest performances caught on film; the opening scene where the entire student body erupts into frantic dancing when the band's "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" hits the school PA is as inspired as the film's literally explosive ending. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW
Comedy, 1975, Great Britain, R, * * *
Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O'Brien, Jonathan Adams, Meat Loaf, Little Nell (Campbell), Charles Gray, Patricia Quinn. Directed by Jim Sharman. 100 min.

videos bullet iconOutrageously kinky horror movie spoof, spiced with sex, transvestism, and rock music, about a straight couple, Janet and Brad, (Sarandon, Bostwick), stranded in an old dark house full of weirdos from Transylvania. Music and lyrics by O'Brien; songs include "Time Warp," "Dammit Janet," and "Wild Untamed Thing." Followed by Shock Treatment (1981). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ROLLERBALL
Horror/Science Fiction, 1975, USA, R, * * *
James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn, Pamela Hensley, Ralph Richardson. Directed by Norman Jewison. 123 min.

videos bullet iconIn the near future, an athelete (James Caan) who excels in the brutal, bloody international sport of rollerball causes trouble for the powers that be when he becomes too famous; his efforts to beat the system form the plot of this shakily conceived but entertaining exercise in sci-fi suspense. Although there are scripted mumblings about computers, multinational corporations and dehumanization, the core of Rollerball is the game itself, a combination of roller derby, hockey, and open warfare that's thrillingly filmed. Most of the cast takes it all too seriously, but Ralph Richardson has a brief, sparkling role as a kindly old computer genius assigned to tend the mastery memory bank, Zero. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ROLLERCOASTER
Action/Adventure, 1977, USA, PG, * 1/2
George Segal, Richard Widmark, Timothy Bottoms, Henry Fonda, Harry Guardino. Directed by James Goldstone. 119 min.

videos bullet iconThe script of this very meek suspense film is by the usually estimable team of Richard Levinson and William Link, the creators of TV's Columbo and Murder She Wrote. This time, their plotting skill didn't carry over to the big screen. The plot has a mad-genius extortionist (Timothy Bottoms) threatening to create havoc in a major amusement park unless he's paid handsomely. This is less a disaster film than a suspense procedural, with good guy George Segal trying to track down the loony before all hell breaks loose. Action fans will have to wait until the last half hour to be placated. Originally shot in "Sensurround." Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ROLLING THUNDER
Action/Adventure, 1977, USA, R, * *
William Devane, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes, Lisa Richards, Dabney Coleman, Cassie Yates. Directed by John Flynn. 99 min.

videos bullet iconFor a while, it looks as if it is going to be an honest examination of the tribulations faced by homecoming Vietnam veterans: William Devane, as a U.S. major who was tortured for eight years in a Viet Cong POW camp, returns home to a wooden, emotionless shell, caring little that his wife and son have become attached to his best friend. But then psycho killers murder his family, and it's time for the usual Vietnam vet killing-machine stuff. As written by Paul Schrader, this is in some was similar to his Taxi Driver, but with all the worst parts magnified. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ROOSTER COGBURN
Western, 1975, USA, PG, * *
John Wayne, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Zerbe, Strother Martin, Richard Jordan, John McIntire. Directed by Stuart Millar. 107 min.

videos bullet iconThis is a sequel to the hit 1969 western True Grit with large measures of The African Queen offered as a starring vehicle for the never-before-teamed Katherine Hepburn and John Wayne. Wayne is amusing, as he always was after he learned to parody himself, but Hepburn is the weak link as yet another fierce old spinster.Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE ROSE
Drama, 1979, USA, R, * * 1/2
Bette Midler, Alan Bates, Frederic Forrest, Harry Dean Stanton, David Keith, Barry Primus. Directed by Mark Rydell. 134 min.

videos bullet iconThis very loose fictionalized retelling of the life of Janis Joplin embraces every rise-and-fall-of-a-star cliché in screen history. When we first meet the Rose (Bette Midler) battling with her manipulative project manager (Alan Bates), she's already on the skids, and it's all downhill from there. The film is elevated from the trash heap by Midler's natural, sizzlingly emotional portrayal of the wrecked superstar, a tour de force performance in a role that desperately calls for one. Her singing, including soaring versions of the bluesy "When a Man Loves a Woman" and "Stay with Me," as well as the title ballad, is "acted" as well, in a style that's a marked departure from her own. Despite its cheap, oversimplified qualities, the drug-and-booze-soaked odyssey on display is a harrowing one. Midler and Frederic Forrest (as one of the Rose's amiable flings) were both Oscar nominees. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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RUST NEVER SLEEPS
Documentary, 1979, USA, PG, * * *
Neil Young, Ralph Molina, Frank "Pancho" Sampedro, Billy Talbot. Directed by Bernard Shakey (Neil Young). 103 min.

videos bullet iconRagged-out but rousing record of Neil Young in concert, with 16 well-performed tunes by rockdom's most lovable downer. My My. Hey Hey. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Drama, 1970, Great Britain, * * *
Robert Mitchum, Trevor Howard, Sarah Miles, Christopher Jones, John Mills, Leo McKern, Barry Foster. Directed by David Lean. 192 min.

videos bullet iconDavid Lean is a filmmaker so skilled at making lengthy, visually grandiose epics for the wide screen (Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, Bridge on the River Kwai) that he almost persuades us that trying to make an epic out of this fairly small story was the right and proper thing to do. It wasn't, though. Set in Ireland during the country's British occupation in World War I, the story concerns Sarah Miles as the spoiled wife of impotent schoolteacher Robert Mitchum and mistress of British soldier Christopher Jones. Mitchum is badly miscast, although he makes more of his role than one could really have hoped. John Mills won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his role (also against type) as a hunchbacked village idiot. Freddie Young also picked up an Oscar for the beautiful camerawork, but -- and this could be a fatal problem for home viewing -- much of the 70mm wide-screen presentation will be lost on a small screen. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE SAILOR WHO FELL FROM GRACE WITH THE SEA
Drama, 1976, Great Britain, R, * *
Kris Kristofferson, Sarah Miles, Jonathan Kahn, Earl Rhodes. Directed by Lewis John Carlino. 105 min.

videos bullet iconIn adapting Yukio Mishima's circumspect novel of humor and betrayal at a Yokohama seaport, writer-director Lewis John Carlino has transplanted the tale to Devon, England, and come up with a film that is moody, evocative, erotic, and finally nonsensical. Imagine a version of Anna Karenina filmed along Miami Beach, and you may begin to get a sense of the cultural dislocation that occurs here. Mishima's complex, tormented tale of a sexually malnourished widow, the sailor who beds her, and the pubescent son who resents the older man is uniquely Eastern in philosophy and spirit, and deliberately bizzare within that context. Carlino treats it with a straight face but doesn't seem quite to understand it; what emerges is all portent and allegory, with little substance or meaning. There are good performances and torrid love scenes from the two principals, but poor acting from Jonathan Kahn and Earl Rhodes as pompous, cant-spouting brats.

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SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR
Comedy, 1978, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Ellen Burstyn, Alan Alda, Ivan Bonar, Bernie Kuby, Cosmo Sardo, David Northcutt, William Cantrell. Directed by Robert Mulligan. 119 min.

videos bullet iconPleasantly old-fashioned, rather literal adaptation of Bernard Slade's hit play about an adulterous couple who meet for one weekend a year over twenty-six years. The passing of time is represented by new hats and different hairstyles for Ellen Burstyn, and some truly tacky montages that reduce everything from hula hoops to the My Lai massacre into tiny video images. Despite the relentlessly schematic style and motormouth dialogue, the notion of "illicit fidelity" becomes charming, due more to Burstyn's dignified, funny, and touching performances than to Alan Alda's one-note morosity. Absolutely unoriginal, but quite satisfying in its familiar way. Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor sing the requisite Marvin Hamlisch theme song, "The Last Time I Felt Like This." Major scenes filmed at the Heritage House in Mendocino, on the northern coast of California. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
Drama, 1977, USA, PG and R (2 versions), * * * 1/2
John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Donna Pescow, Barry Miller, Julie Bovasso. Directed by John Badham. 108 min. (PG); 119 min. (R).

videos bullet iconJohn Travolta shot to stardom playing Tony Manero in this music- and dance-filled drama about a working-class Brooklyn kid who lets loose each weekend at a local disco. It's the grandaddy of just about every pop-music movie released since, and a must for any student of 1970s pop culture in all its tacky greatness. Whether by luck or skill, Travolta gave a performance accurate and incisive enough to earn him an Oscar nomination, and his dancing is still electrifying. Director John Badham is quite sharp in his depiction of teenagers who can only let themselves live it up by dancing or destruction, and the Bee Gees score is the last word in disco. (Watch for the ominous appearance of a Rocky poster on Tony's wall -- it was Sylvester Stallone who directed the execrable 1983 sequel, Staying Alive.) Note: On videocassette, Saturday Night Fever is available in its original R-rated form and in the PG version that was released later to capitalize on a huge teenage audience, most of whom had seen it already anyway. The shorter version is missing one significant scene, and a lot of the grit that makes the movie more than just pop trash. The R version is recommended. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SAVE THE TIGER
Drama, 1973, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Jack Lemmon, Jack Gilford, Laurie Heineman, Norman Burton, Patricia Smith. Directed by John G. Avildsen. 100 min.

videos bullet iconThis early 1970s update of Death of a Salesman and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit casts Jack Lemmon as a small-time garment manufacturer in crisis. While preoccupied with wartime memories, he considers burning down his factory in order to collect on his insurance. This bitter, depressing look at one man's mid-life crisis has an uncompromising flavor that is both repellent and powerful, and Lemmon's Oscar-winning performance hits all the right notes. The sour, unpleasant characters and perspective will appeal mainly to those who see water pitchers as half empty rather than half full, but the film is impressively done, and still packs a powerful punch. Jack Gilford is excellent as Lemmon's business partner. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SEMI-TOUGH
Comedy, 1977, USA, R, * * 1/2
Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, Jill Clayburgh, Robert Preston, Bert Convy, Roger E. Mosley, Lotte Lenya, Richard Masur, Carl Weathers, Brian Dennehy, Mary Jo Caatlett. Directed by Michael Ritchie. 107 min.

videos bullet iconIf only Michael Ritchie's adaptation of Dan Jenkins's bestseller were about football, or team relations -- or something that might justify its setting in the midst of a Miami gridiron squad on its way to the Super Bowl. Instead, Semi-Tough is a slick, contemptuous redneck-chic movie that devotes most of its time to a farcical attack on New Age consciousness-raising movements. The film views psychic seekers -- and intellectuals and businessmen and devout Christians -- as ninnies and offers only a sort of juvenile nihilism as an alternative. Burt Reynolds's performance here is good enough to make you wish it were housed in a worthier film. Kris Kristofferson and Jill Clayburgh, though, are miscast and unconvincing. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE SENTINEL
Horror/Science Fiction, 1977, USA, R, * *
Chris Sarandon, Cristina Raines, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, Jose Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Debora Raffin, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D'Angelo, Tom Berenger, William Hickey, Jeff Goldblum. Directed by Michael Winner. 91 min.

videos bullet iconThis is one of the lesser examples of the school of religious horror films (Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen.). A model rents an apartment in a Brooklyn Heights building and begins to notice that her neighbors are, well, sort of weird. Turns out they're either demons or priests, all out to secure the entranceway to hell, which just happens to be located in the building. Director Michael Winner has no touch for subtlety, as he demonstrated in the first three Death Wish films -- the devil, for instance, is played by Burgess Meredith as a raging queen, and when the script calls for the minions of hell to arise, Winner uses real sideshow freaks and human monsters. The effect is creepy, but you feel abused. The large cast is used to no great advantage, least of all to distract attention from Cristina Raines, who is quite bad. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SERPICO
Drama, 1973, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Barbara Eda-Young. Directed by Sidney Lumet. 130 min.

videos bullet iconSidney Lumet, working in the realistic crime drama milieu that is his forte, adapts Peter Maas's novel about the New York City maverick cop Frank Serpico. Lumet gets a raw, gutsy performance from Al Pacino as the officer who refuses to take graft, and his depiction of Serpico's dangerous raids is explosively violent. In some ways, Serpico feels like a warm-up for Lumet's similar, superior Prince of the City (1981). It's Pacino you come away remembering. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION
Mystery/Suspense, 1976, Great Britain, PG, * * * 1/2
Alan Arkin, Nicol Williamson, Laurence Olivier, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Duvall, Joel Grey, Samantha Eggar, Jeremy Kemp. Directed by Herbert Ross. 113 min.

videos bullet iconA delightful, consistently intelligent mystery-adventure, swirling fact, fiction, speculation, and fantasy into a captivating alliance between two great psychological detectives, Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud. The "solution" in the title refers to cocaine, and interest which brings the two together, and to the conundrum they must unravel, an entanglement involving a mysterious woman (Vanessa Redgrave) and the sinister Professor Moriarity (Laurence Olivier) that takes the unlikely team across Europe. Writer Nicholas Meyer is the master of this sort of what-if plot (he also united H. G. Wells and Jack the Ripper in Time after Time), and his story, ably directed by Herbert Ross, is full of sharp wit and invention. There isn't a bad performance in the cast, but you'll especially enjoy Olivier, who adds another memorable name to his list of latter-day villians, and Robert Duvall, very fine as the very British Dr. Watson. Sparkly, smart, entertaining fare. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE SEVEN-UPS
Action/Adventure, 1973, USA, PG, * *
Roy Scheider, Ken Kercheval, Victor Arnold, Jerry Leon, Tony LaBianco. Directed by Philip D'Antoni. 103 min.

videos bullet iconThe producer of Bullitt and The French Connection tries to do it again with another fast-moving story of unorthodox cops against a big-city background. Only problem is, this time he hired himself to direct it. There's a ten-minute car chase that rivals anything in the other two productions. But nothing in the rest of the movie, which mixes four undercover NYPD cops and a gangland kidnapping scheme, is particularly memorable. The grimy New York visuals and Don Ellis's jazz-rock score help mask the other deficiencies. Even more so than in The French Connection, the viewer is expected to condone and applaud the street cops' tactics of breaking the law in the name of the law. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
Musical, 1978, USA, R, *
Peter Frampton, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, Alice Cooper, Billy Preston, Steven Martin, George Burns, Donald Pleasence, Earth, Wind and Fire. Directed by Michael Schultz. 111 min.

videos bullet iconThe entrepeneurs behind Saturday Night Fever pulled together this virtual desecration of classic Beatles tunes by inflating them into a stupid, obvious, cartoonish story line, and putting them in the mouths of such 1970s pop icons as Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees. Watching the disco brothers Gibb and arena rocker Frampton cough out the great music on their tissue-thin voices will remind you that 1978 was not a banner year for pop tunes (the year's other big musical was the film Grease). What there is of the script, not surprisingly, stinks. You'd be better off with A Hard Day's Night, Help! or any old Beatles album. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SHAFT
Action/Adventure, 1971, USA, R, * * *
Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Gwen Mitchell, Christopher St. John. Directed by Gordon Parks. 100 min.

videos bullet iconWith liberal doses of sex and violence, this groundbreaking portrayal of an ultracool black private eye paved the way for dozens of black exploitation films, most of which didn't match its skill or style. Though no action masterpiece, Shaft is a furiously exciting comic-book adventure whose hero wipes out truckloads of criminals and beds whichever lassies he pleases during lulls. That this superstud was black wouldn't excite the interest today that it did in '71, but Parks's smooth, no-nonsense direction and Isaac Hayes's driving funk score are still likely to quicken a lot of pulses. The sequels were Shaft's Big Score (1972) and Shaft In Africa (1973). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE SHAGGY D.A.
Children's, 1976, USA, PG, * *
Dean Jones, Tim Conway, Suzanne Pleshette, Keenan Wynn, Joanne Worley, Dick Van Patten, Vic Tayback. Directed by Robert Stevenson. 91 min.

videos bullet iconDisney's belated follow-up to its 1959 hit The Shaggy Dog should satisfy fans of the original without winning any new admirers. Once again, a guileless good guy -- here an aspiring district attorney -- turns into a sheepdog every time a certain magical incantation is uttered. Director Robert Stevenson was the undisputed king of Walt's "family" comedies (this was his nineteenth for the studio), and he manages to keep things moving at a reasonable clip. However, if you're not already chortling at the prospect of a talking dog, stay away. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SHAMPOO
Comedy, 1975, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Jack Warden, Lee Grant, Tony Bill, Carrie Fisher. Directed by Hal Ashby. 109 min.

videos bullet iconThe episodic style and sexual shenanigans of this bedroom comedy add up to a surprisingly pungent, pointed look at manners and morality circa 1968 (the film takes place on the eve of Richard Nixon's election). Warren Beatty plays a womanizing hairdresser who finds that his customers are demanding more in the way of house calls than even he can provide. Beatty's charming Lothario races from one Beverly Hills mansion to the next, blowdryer at the ready, and, while Shampoo uses his character to incarnate every aspect of 1960s political consciousness that failed, it's the women who will stay in your mind: Goldie Hawn's bubble-headed actress, Julie Christie's bitter, self-protective mistress, Carrie Fisher's randy teenager, and Lee Grant's Oscar-winning turn as a shrewd but desperate wife. The excellent screenplay is by Beatty and Robert Towne. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SHORT EYES
Drama, 1977, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Bruce Davison, Jose Perez, Nathan George, Don Blakely, Shawn Elliot, Tito Goya, Joe Carberry, Kenny Steward, Bab Maroff, Keith Davis, Miguel Pinero, Curtis Mayfield, Willie Hernandez, Bob O'Connell, Tony De Benedetto, Mark Margolis. Directed by Robert M. Young. 104 min.

videos bullet iconFrom the very beginning, we know this is no mincing, humanitarian prison movie. In Short Eyes, the mostly black and Hispanic prisoners are tough and cocky, proud of their crimes and fiercely unrepenant; they're not only coping with prison life, they've mastered it. Into this bizarre civilization steps Clark Davis, masterfully portrayed by Bruce Davison. He's a "short eyes," a child molester, guilty of the one crime the other prisoners can't forgive -- a milksop whom the prisoners hate not only because his sexuality mirrors their own, but because his self-loathing tests their own tenuous self-respect, which is the one thing that stands between them and abyss. Despite some staginess, this is probably the most convincing prison movie ever filmed; it's no surprise that it makes your skin crawl. Adapted by Miguel Pinero from his Obie and Drama Critics Circle Award-winning play, it boasts extraordinary performances by Pinero, Tito Goya, Kenny Steward, and Joe Carberry. (a.k.a.: Slammer) Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SILENT MOVIE
Comedy, 1976, USA, PG, * * *
Mel Brooks, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman, James Caan, Anne Bancroft, Liza Minnelli. Directed by Mel Brooks. 88 min.

videos bullet iconMel Brooks's send-up of the pretalkie era is audacious in one respect: it really is silent -- except for one word whose uttering makes for one of the funnier jokes in the film. Otherwise, this falls short of the superb genre parodies the director mounted in Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, although it's occasionally quite skilled and funny. The plot has filmmaker Mel Funn trying to get financing for his new picture from Engulf and Devour Studios. Best among the five superstars who have extended appearances is Anne Bancroft, who does a deft takeoff on her own glamorous image using the simple gimmick of crossed eyes. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SILENT RUNNING
Science Fiction, 1972, USA, G, * * 1/2
Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts. Directed by Douglass Trumbull. 90 min.

videos bullet iconIn a change of pace from his usual bad guy-psychotic role, Bruce Dern gets to play a good guy-psychotic, a botanist on a space station containing all of the earth's remaining plant life. When the bureaucrats on Earth decide that the environment will never be able to support flora again, Dern kills his crewmates rather than jettison the cargo and takes off for parts unknown. Douglass Trumbull worked on the special effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the effects in this, his directorial debut, certainly seem to interest him more than the premise. Cowritten by Michael Cimino, with music by Joan Baez and Peter (P.D.Q. Bach) Schickele. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SILVER STREAK
Comedy, 1976, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Patrick McGoohan, Ned Beatty, Richard Kiel, Scatman Crothers, Fred Willard. Directed by Arthur Hiller. 113 min.

videos bullet iconThis genial comedy-adventure, set on a supertrain from Los Angeles to Chicago, is only moderately engaging. Considering the talents of its cast, it's also surprisingly low on laughs. The story, with Wrong Man-ish intrigue, slick villians, and vanishing corpes, means to be a 1930s-style sophisticated romp, but director Arthur Hiller's slack execution suggests that some genres are better consigned to past films or present masters. The three stars are all quite funny, especially Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, who reteamed later for the somewhat better Stir Crazy. But any move that hires Richard Pryor and then keeps him off the screen for the first hour clearly has its funnybone in the wrong place. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SLAP SHOT
Comedy, 1977, USA, R, * * *
Paul Newman, Strother Martin, Michael Ontkean, Jennifer Warren, Lindsay Crouse, Jerry Houser, Andrew Duncan, Jeff Carlson, Steven Carlson, David Hanson, Swoosie Kurtz, M. Emmet Walsh. Directed by George Roy Hill. 123 min.

videos bullet iconPaul Newman holds together George Roy Hill's confused, foulmouthed comedy about a down-and-out hockey team that resorts to violence to sell tickets. The film falls into the trap of glorifying the violence it pretends to deplore, and Nancy Dowd's script takes a rather naive delight in its own naughtiness. The women (Jennifer Warren as hockey coach Newman's estranged wife and Lindsay Crouse as the well-educated, hard-drinking hockey wife) are intriguing, and the roughhousing is often hilarious. Newman's performance is his best in years, and the striptease Michael Onkean (The Rookies) does on the ice is funny and sexy. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE
Comedy, 1972, USA, R, * * * *
Michael Sacks, Valerie Perrine, Ron Leibman, Eugene Roche, Sharon Gans. Directed by George Roy Hill. 104 min.

videos bullet iconAs he later did with John Irving's The World According to Garp, director George Roy Hill adapts the Kurt Vonnegut novel to the screen with a wonderful concision, creating a work that is faithful to its source and yet distinctively his own. Everyman Billy Pilgrim becomes "unstuck in time," living every moment in his life simultaneously: he moves randomly from the firebombing of Dresden during World War II to his boring contemporary life as an optician in upstate New York to his captivity in an intergalactic zoo on the planet Tralfamadore. Valerie Perrine made her film debt here as Montana Wildhack, a movie sex kitten who is provided as Pilgrim's mate on Tralfamadore. A surreal and very original film, aided by a marvelous Glenn Gould-adapted score by J.S. Bach. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SMILE
Comedy, 1975, USA, PG, * * *
Bruce Dern, Barbara Feldon, Michael Kidd, Geoffrey Lewis, Nicholas Pryor, Colleen Camp, Maria O'Brien, Joan Prather, Annette O'Toole, Melanie Griffith. Directed by Michael Ritchie. 113 min.

videos bullet iconTeenage beauty pageants are the target of this sharply funny satire, one of Michael Ritchie's most consitently entertaining films. Bruce Dern and Barbara Feldon stand out as the sponsor and coordinator of a Young Miss America runoff in California, but the most memorable moments involve the young women -- shrewd, calculating beauties who fight tooth and nail to see who's the sweetest of them all. Some priceless lines pin the ethos of the Me Decade to the wall like a wriggling insect, and even if the film is too affectionate about its subject to really sting, its more gentle mockery holds up nicely. Later a Broadway musical. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT
Action/Adventure, 1977, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason, Mike Henry, Paul Williams, Pat McCormick. Directed by Hal Needham. 97 min.

videos bullet iconA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars broke every box-office record in history; that year, this low-road chase comedy was the second most popular film. Burt Reynolds had already refined his good-ol'-boy persona in White Lightning and Gator but hadn't yet become the smug talk-show standby of his later films; as the superskilled speed driver Bandit, he's actually fun to watch here, amiable and easy going. "Smokey" is, of course, Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), the blustery redneck who's hot on his trail but never quite catches up. The film has as much complexity and style as a Road Runner cartoon, and that's quite enough; if you've never seen one of these, give it a spin. Followed by two sequels. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME
Documentary, 1976, Great Britain, PG, *
Led Zeppelin (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant), Peter Grant. Directed by Peter Clifton and Joe Massot. 136 min.

videos bullet iconThis concert film made during a Led Zeppelin concert at Madison Square Garden in 1973 is strictly for fans, and only the less discriminating of those. The concert footage is fleshed out with indecipherable fantasy sequences, one per band member, and some interesting scenes of the band's manager handling the whole road show from backstage. But that still leaves two hours of the band onstage, in which they perform thirteen songs -- that's an average length of about nine minutes apiece -- that are pretty much indistinguishable from each other. Photographed and edited in a pretentious, pseudopsychedelic way. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SOUNDER
Drama, 1972, USA, G, * * * *
Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, Kevin Hooks, Taj Mahal. Directed by Martin Ritt. 105 min.

videos bullet iconMade at a time when films about blacks ranged from Shaft to Blacula, Sounder was such a breath of fresh air that people fell over themselves trying to praise it. The kudos were not undeserved: it is an excellent film dealing with a family struggling to remain intact against pressure from the outside world. Set in the rural South of the 1930s, Sounder is an outstanding family film, one that adults can watch without feeling that they have to look down. It presents rural life and prejudice with verisimilitude but without excess, conveying its emotions and platitudes gently but effectively. Superbly directed by the often underrated Martin Ritt. An excellent sequel, Part 2, Sounder, followed in 1976. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SORCERER
Action/Adventure, 1977, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou, Ramon Bieri, Peter Capell. Directed by William Friedkin. 122 min.

videos bullet iconFour fugitives in a seedy Latin American town try to buy freedom by driving trucks of nitroglycerine over bumpy roads to help put out an oil fire. An expensive remake of The Wages of Fear that never really catches hold in spite of a few astounding scenes. Strange electronic score by Tangerine Dream.Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SOYLENT GREEN
Horror/Science Fiction, 1973, USA, PG, * 1/2
Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Edward G. Robinson, Paula Kelly. Directed by Richard Fleischer. 97 min.

videos bullet iconThe year is 2022 and overpopulation, pollution and global warming are so bad that people are being scooped up in the streets and made into food resembling wheat thins. Charlton Heston comes to the rescue to stop the killings. Other acting heavyweights include Leigh Taylor-Young and Chuck Connors. It's all perfectly ridiculous, though it does offer Edward G. Robinson in his last screen role. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SPARKLE
Drama, 1976, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Philip (Michael) Thomas, Irene Cara, Lonette McKee, Dwan Smith, Dorian Harewood, Mary Alice. Directed by Sam O'Steen. 98 min.

videos bullet iconA ripely melodramatic subject -- the rise and fall of a 1960s "girl group" à la the Supremes -- is handled only adequately in Joel Schumacher's script, but the cast of pros will hold your attention. Philip Thomas, long before Miami Vice, looks stiff and uneasy, but Irene Cara, Lonette McKee, and Dwan Smith are very dynamic as the singing sisters. Curtis Mayfield contributed the excellent song score, sung by Aretha Franklin. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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A SPECIAL DAY
Foreign, 1977, Italy/Canada, * * * 1/2
Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastrioanni, John Vernon, Francoise Berd, Nicole Magny, Patrizia Basso. Directed by Ettore Scola. 110 min.

videos bullet iconIn their eighth film together, Marcello Mastrioanni and Sophia Loren play a homosexual radio announcer and an oppressed housewife drawn together by the ways in which they suffer under Italy's fascist regime. Their uneasy, inarticulate relationship is meant to serve as a global metaphor; the film takes place on the day of Hitler's famous "house call" on Mussolini, and the dialogue is occasionally too studied and deliberate. But Ettore Scola's sensitivity as a director of actors has never been more evident -- he draws a beautiful performance from Loren and a very touching, credible one from Mastrioanni (who was nominated for an Academy Award). It's small in scale and more theatrical than it needs to be, but quite effective nonetheless. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE SPY WHO LOVED ME
Action/Adventure, 1977, Great Britain, PG, * * * 1/2
Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Curt Jurgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro. Directed by Louis Gilbert. 125 min.

videos bullet iconEccentricity, exaggeration, plastic characters, and ludicrous dialogue are all part of the fun in this tenth James Bond adventure. The finicky and epicurean British spy teams up with a luscious Russian agent to stop the insane Curt Jurgens, who plans to destroy the world with his nuclear arsenal. "Jaws," the gimmick character of the film, a human monster with steel teeth, is Bond's nemesis. The excellent photography and production render the big action scenes absolutely breathtaking. Bond fans will, of course, be gratified by the exciting ski chases and impressive underwater sequences. A commercial smash. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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A STAR IS BORN
Drama, 1976, USA, R, * 1/2
Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson, Gary Busey, Oliver Clark, Marta Heflin, Vanetta Fields, Clydie King. Directed by Frank Pierson. 140 min.

videos bullet iconEvery so often, Hollywood purges itself by remaking this masochistic show-biz tearjerker about the cost of fame, with an up-and-coming woman falling in love with a rapidly disintegrating man. The first three (counting the 1932 What Price Hollywood?) ranged from good to great. This one is a debacle. Both main characters have been changed from actors to singers, the better to accomodate producer-star Barbra Streisand. What emerges is an egomaniacal mess, a protracted excuse for her to make a semiconcert film interspersed with high-school amateur dramatics. The music, including the Oscar-winning "Evergreen," far outclasses the acting, but after two and a half hours, you won't care. Even Streisand's most devoted followers will be hard pressed to find any art or talent in the bullying histrionics with which she dominates the proceedings. The fine writers Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne are credited with the patchy script, but a small army of hired pens reportedly contributed to other drafts, all for naught. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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STARTING OVER
Comedy, 1979, USA, R, * * *
Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh, Candice Bergen, Paul Sorvino, Austin Pendleton. Directed by Alan J. Pakula. 106 min.

videos bullet iconThis entertaining seriocomedy about adjusting to the aftermath of divorce is superficially meaningful -- along the lines of Terms of Endearment (also written by James Brooks) -- but it mercifully lacks that film's unconvincing turn to tragedy. Burt Reynolds, trying to shuck off his good 'ol boy image, plays a divorced man whose newly minted feelings for schoolmarm Jill Clayburgh are complicated by his deep-rooted feelings for his former wife, Candice Bergen. She's a dingbat who dreams of a successful songwriting career as the means to cap off her emancipation. The loose ends of these private lives aren't tied together satisfactorily in the final reel, but the film is a decent romantic comedy. Both Clayburgh and Bergen were consedered winsome and funny enough each to receive Oscar nominations. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
Horror/Science Fiction, 1979, USA, G, * 1/2
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta. Directed by Robert Wise. 145 min.

videos bullet iconIt took eleven years, but the low-rated sci-fi series whose five-year mission was cruelly cut short in 1968 finally made it to the big screen. Seeing this, you'll wonder why. Much of Star Trek's inflated running time (it's even longer on video) is given over to director Robert Wise's endless, salivating pans across the elaborately dull sets of the new, improved Enterprise; when he actually focuses on the characters, it's usually to savor a painfully drawn-out reunion between any two of the rusty-jointed, deep-frozen crew members. The cast, once so wonderfully hammy, is forced to act as if their mere presence gives the film mythic weight, but the plot, about a mysterious missing spacecraft, is cheaper and more dimwitted than the silliest series episode. Numerous sequels in the 1980s and 1991 followed, as well as spinoff series. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.



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STAR WARS
Horror/Science Fiction, 1977, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Cushing, James Earl Jones, David Prowse, Anthony Daniels. Directed by George Lucas. 121 min.

videos bullet iconGeorge Lucas proves himself a comic-book artist without peer in this homage to the cheesy space-ship-and-ray-gun serials of the 1930s. Never has so much fancy technology been thrown away with so much frivolity. The plot about warring intergalactic factions resembles old Hollywood Westerns and Buck Rogers-type serials, but it's actually a retread of Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress (1958). Admittedly, the story is simple and the characters are shallow, but the special effects are exceptionally well done and Lucas deserves praise for creating the gushing spirit of an old-fashioned adventure movie. Followed by two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), and three prequels, The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE STEPFORD WIVES
Horror/Science Fiction, 1975, USA, PG, * * *
Katherine Ross, Paula Prentiss, Peter Masterson, Nanette Newman, Patrick O'Neal, Tina Louise, Dee Wallace, William Prince. Directed by Bryan Forbes. 115 min.

videos bullet iconAn effective chiller that finds suburban housewives Ross and Prentiss trying to understand the perpetually blissful state of the women of Stepford, Connecticut. Script by William Goldman from Ira Levin's best-seller. Seven-year-old Mary Stuart Masterson makes her film debut (playing the daughter of real-life dad Peter Masterson). Followed by three inferior TV sequels, (Revenge of the Stepford Wives, The Stepford Children and The Stepford Husbands) and a 2004 remake. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE STING
Comedy, 1973, USA, PG, * * * *
Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan. Directed by George Roy Hill. 129 min.

videos bullet iconFour years after George Roy Hill directed Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the trio teamed up again and made another huge box-office hit. Oscars for best picture, director (George Roy Hill), and screenplay (David S. Ward) went to this thoroughly entertaining comedy about two slick Chicago con men of the 1930s who revenge their friend's death by putting "the sting" on big-time gangster Shaw in a wildly elaborate swindle. Scott Joplin's delightful ragtime score, arranged by Marvin Hamlisch and highlighted by "The Entertainer," gives the film razzle, and Hill's glittery mounting supplies the dazzle. Followed by a limp sequel that was, oddly, also written by Ward, The Sting II, in 1983. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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STRAIGHT TIME
Drama, 1978, USA, R, * * * *
Dustin Hoffman, Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, M. Emmet Walsh, Harry Dean Stanton. Directed by Ulu Grosbard. 114 min.

videos bullet iconDustin Hoffman is one of those rare actors who can submerge himself in a role with such an intensity that his "star" persona ceases to exist, and he uncannily becomes the character. This bleak movie is an example of his abilities at their best: it's a downbeat, fascinating portrayal of an ex-con who can't adjust to the outside world and does everything possible to land himself back into the environment that he knows best -- jail. Straight Time brilliantly examines the seedy atmosphere and straggly characters in his life with a near-documentary sensibility. Among the effectively rendered characters are a social worker with whom he falls in love, a drug-addicted young man, and a burned-out worker who wants a life of crime instead of his newly found normality. Even though Ulu Grosbard puts them at a distance from us, their tragic lives are still emotionally affecting. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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STRAW DOGS
Drama, 1971, Great Britain, R, * * *
Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughn, David Warner. Directed by Sam Peckinpah. 113 min.

videos bullet iconA horror story without a trace of the supernatural in it, Straw Dogs is not simply a violent film, but a film about violence. It tells the story of a passive pacifist mathematician and his wife who must change their ways when their English manor house is attacked by crazed locals. Sam Peckinpah draws fine performances out of everyone, creating a symbol-riddled moral universe in which bloodshed, masculinity, and self-esteem must go hand in hand, a questionable premise but one which he puts forth with great subtlety and conviction. An exploitative rape scene early on leaves a foul taste, but the last half hour, an unremittingly harrowing, brilliantly edited orgy of carnage, may be Peckinpah's greatest work. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SUMMER OF '42
Drama, 1971, USA, PG (originally R), * * *
Jennifer O'Neill, Gary Grimes, Jerry Houser, Oliver Conant, Katherine Allentuck, Christopher Norris, Lou Frizell. Directed by Robert Mulligan. 102 min.

videos bullet iconEnticing if unprofound nostalgia by Herman Raucher about teenager Grimes with a crush on young war bride O'Neill. Captures 1940s flavor and adolescent boyhood quite nicely. Michel Legrand won an Oscar for the score. Followed by the less ambitious Class of '44 in 1973. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY
Drama, 1971, Great Britain, * * * 1/2
Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson, Murray Head, Peggy Ashcroft, Maurice Denham. Directed by John Schlesinger. 110 min.

videos bullet iconThis powerful, literate drama, written by then-New Yorker film critic Penelope Gilliatt, explores a love triangle between a bisexual artist (Murray Head), his doctor-lover (Peter Finch), and his sometimes-mistress (Glenda Jackson). At the time, it was hailed for presenting the first noncaricatured, nonbathetic depiction of a homosexual, and Finch's superbly restrained work still stands as the finest of his career; many felt that his Oscar for Network was a belated accolade for this film. Jackson, though perhaps somewhat more strident than warranted, remains his equal in thoughtful nuance. The intervening years have made the film more problematic, especially regarding Murray Head's opaque characterization of the mutual lover and the almost too subdued, uneventful nature of the story. However, it remains a notable poignant essay about and for intelligent adults, a commodity one shouldn't undervalue. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE SUPER COPS
Drama, 1974, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Ron Leibman, David Selby, Sheila Frazier, Pat Hingle, Dan Frazer. Directed by Gordon Parks. 94 min.

videos bullet iconFast, funny, tough telling of the Batman and Robin team of David Greenburg (Ron Leibman) and Robert Hantz (David Selby) who used unorthodox methods to stop the drug market in Brooklyn's black Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Filmed on location, with Greenburg and Hantz in bits. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SUPERFLY
Action/Adventure, 1972, USA, PG, * * *
Ron O'Neal, Carl Lee, Sheila Frazier, Julius W. Harris, Charles McGregor. Directed by Gordon Parks, Jr. 93 min.

videos bullet iconA morally dubious but undeniably exciting tale of a Harlem drug dealer out for the fast killing before he quits the business. The film was accused of glorifying drug pushers, a stigma that kept it off TV at the start. The movie benefits from an excellent Curtis Mayfield score. The following year it had a sequel, Superfly T.N.T. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE
Action/Adventure, 1978, USA, PG, * * *
Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Phyllis Thaxter, Trevor Howard, Valerie Perrine, Terence Stamp, Susannah York, Jack O'Halloran, Jeff East, Sarah Douglas. Directed by Richard Donner. 142 min.

videos bullet iconThe Man of Steel from the pages of DC Comics to the big screen; audiences cheered, and you will too. This spectacular fantasy-adventure may not be as much fun as its first sequel, but it has just about everything a live-action comic strip needs: dazzling special effects, a clear-cut set of villians, a romantic subplot, and an abundance of good humor. Christopher Reeve is an ideal Superman, stiff and wooden as Clark Kent but with just enough self-mockery to let you know he's kidding, and Margot Kidder breathes more husky-voiced life into Lois Lane than thirty years of comic books ever did. The only slow going is in the film's first third, which presents Superman's origins in the kind of scrupulous piety and detail usually accorded to Bible stories; once Superman leaves Ma and Pa Kent for the bright lights and big crimes of Metropolis, he and the film both soar. With Jackie Cooper as Perry White, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, and a white-wigged, rather prissy Marlon Brando as Superman's real dad, Jor-El. Followed by three sequels and the Supergirl spin-off. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE SWARM
Action/Adventure, 1978, USA, PG, * 1/2
Michael Caine, Katherine Ross, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Fred MacMurray, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, Jose Ferrer, Patty Duke Astin. Directed by Irwin Allen. 116 min.

videos bullet iconThis formula disaster film from Irwin Allen portrays a killer bee invasion with no sting at all; it succeeds only in wasting a lot of talented actors. For masochists only; runs even longer [156 min.] on DVD. Panavision. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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T. R. BASKIN
Drama, 1971, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Candice Bergen, Peter Boyle, James Caan, Marcia Rodd, Erin O'Reilly, Howard Platt. Directed by Herbert Ross. 90 min.

videos bullet iconA beautiful young girl tries to make it in Chicago but finds problems in the big city. A wildly uneven comedy-drama that has a few nice scenes, and good acting by Caan in a small role. Written and produced by Peter Hyams. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE
Mystery/Suspense, 1974, USA, R, * * 1/2
Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Doris Roberts, Tony Roberts, Earl Hindman, James Broderick, Jerry Stiller. Directed by Joseph Sargent. 104 min.

videos bullet iconJoseph Sargeant's efficient pulse-pounder about a commandeered New York City subway train is enlivened by Walter Matthau's ingratiating comic turn as a rumpled transit authority inspector. The hijackers are demanding one million dollars to be delivered in one hour, and the old ticking-clock plot device works extremely well, tying together the parallel stories of the frantic cops and the panicked people aboard the train. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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TAXI DRIVER
Drama, 1976, USA, R, * * * *
Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster, Peter Boyle, Leonard Harris, Harvey Keitel. Directed by Martin Scorsese. 114 min.

videos bullet iconMartin Scorsese's nightmarish drama of personal shell-shock, urban paranoia, and random bloodshed is a contemporary horror story with its roots in Arthur Bremer's attempted assassination of George Wallace. Its effects, though, have been felt long since then; its impact is hypnotic, grisly, and lasting. The film's nominal hero, Travis Bickle, lives in a netherworld between the past hell of Vietnam and the more mundane horror of New York City street life, driving a cab, frequenting Times Square dives, and holding up in his grimy apartment in a solitude that's ready to explode. When he meets Betsy (Cybil Shepherd), a cooly friendly campaign worker, and Iris (Jodie Foster), a twelve-year-old prostitute, their lives come together in a shocking eruption of violence that temporarily earned Taxi Driver an X rating. Paul Schrader's screenplay has some problems with its perspective and development, and Scorsese's generally superb direction slips into several moments of odd overemphasis. DeNiro's central performance is, however, acting of the highest order. Standing in front of the mirror, practicing his icy glare and "You talkin' to me?" sneer, his Travis becomes one of the most enduring and scary icons of postwar alienation on screen. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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10
Comedy, 1979, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, Bo Derek, Robert Webber, Dee Wallace, Sam Jones, Brian Dennehy, Max Showalter. Directed by Blake Edwards. 122 min.

videos bullet iconThe delightful comedy that made Dudley Moore a star and Bo Derek a sensation. Dudley plays a songwriter whose mid-life crisis wrenches him from his smart, tolerant-up-to-a-point girl friend (Julie Andrews) and sends him careening south of the border in pursuit of an elusive beauty (Derek) who rates an 11 on his 1-to-10 scale of beauty. Beneath the slick sex farce is a double-edged study of the menopausal male at his worst, and a charming cautionary tale about the dangers of pursuing a voyeuristic fantasy into the real world. Moore and Andrews are startingly fine, and Derek is astonishingly beautiful and completely shallow -- luckily for her, so is the character she plays. One of Blake Edwards's best non-Pink Panther films. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE
Horror/Science Fiction, 1974, USA, R, * * 1/2
Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, Gunnar Hansen. Directed by Tobe Hooper. 83 min.

videos bullet iconOne 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 director Tobe Hooper taking exploitative violence into previously unexplored realms. Oddly enough, Chain Saw is roughly based on the same real-life incident that inspired Psycho. If Hitchcock's film is the pinnacle of sophisticated horror, this one has the dubious distinction of being at the top of the splatter heap. Be warned, though: unless you salivate at words like "splatter," stay away. Followed by the ineffective sequels The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (1986), Leatherface - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre III (1990) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre - The Next Generation (1994). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY
Comedy, 1978, USA, PG, * 1/2
Donna Summer, Valerie Landsburg, Terri Nunn, Chick Vennera, Ray Vitte, Mark Lanow, Jeff Goldblum, Debra Winger, the Commodores. Directed by Robert Klane. 89 min.

videos bullet iconRobert Klane, the screenwriter of Where's Poppa?, makes his first film as a director, and it's a badly botched job. T.G.I.F. follows sixteen cartoonish characters and a band (the Commodores) through the unlikely and uninteresting tribulations of a night at The Zoo, a singularly unpleasant disco in Los Angeles. The actors are all promising and many have since gone on to bigger and better things, but they've been badly used here. There's not much dancing in the movie, either, and what little there is turns out to be a bewildering pileup of squirming bodies shot from angles that suggest dangerously drugged cameramen. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!
Documentary, 1974, USA, G, * * * *
Narrators: Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds. Directed by Jack Haley, Jr. 133 min.

videos bullet iconMGM wasn't the only studio to make a lot of movie musicals, but they certainly made the best. That's Entertainment! is the apt title for a dazzling array of film clips of the best of the MGM musicals. There's a generous helping of magical work of Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Eleanor Powell. The material is well-chosen, and even after two hours and thirteen minutes, you'll be wanting more. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT, PART 2
Documentary, 1976, USA, G, * * 1/2
Narrators: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. New sequences directed by Gene Kelly. 132 min.

videos bullet iconHere's yet another tribute to those great MGM musicals. There are still many moments of pleasure to be had, but this time the film is weighted down by poorly filmed new sequences with "hosts" Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and a series of tediously reverential tributes (to Paris, popular songwriters, and Frank Sinatra). Just when you're about to eject your cassette, however, there's Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Cyd Charisse, (the young) Astaire and Kelly, et al -- who resuscitate this long, sagging, disorderly compilation. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THAT'S THE WAY OF THE WORLD
Drama, 1975, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Harvey Keitel, Ed Nelson, Cynthia Bostick, Bert Parks, Earth, Wind and Fire. Directed by Sig Shore. 99 min.

videos bullet iconMajor attractions here are the score and appearances by Earth, Wind and Fire, playing themselves as a struggling young band. Unfortunately, they serve mostly as background for this thin exposé of the music business. Harvey Keitel plays a record-company executive who tries to help EWF make it big but who is instead forced to push a watered-down family band. Keitel is good, as always, but the story and characterization aren't strong enough to give this any real impact. Note: That's not the Bert Parks. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP
Comedy, 1970, Great Britain, R, * * 1/2
Peter Sellers, Goldie Hawn, Tony Britton, Nicky Henson, Diana Dors. Directed by Roy Boulting. 94 min.

videos bullet iconA mediocre sex comedy that coasts along entirely on the presence of its two stars. Peter Sellers plays a TV gourmet trying to fight back middle age by consorting with every female who comes his way. Goldie Hawn is a kook with whom he has a fling when she breaks up with her drummer boyfriend. Goldie has several not-so-flattering nude scenes and Sellers relies too much on the smug side of his Inspector Clouseau persona, but there are still enough bright moments to make this passable entertainment. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THEY ONLY KILL THEIR MASTERS
Mystery/Suspense, 1972, USA, PG, * * 1/2
James Garner, Katherine Ross, Hal Holbrook, Harry Guardino, June Allyson, Christopher Connelly, Tom Ewell, Peter Lawford, Edmund O'Brien, Arthur O'Connell, Ann Rutherford. Directed by James Goldstone. 97 min.

videos bullet iconGreat cast in modern-day whodunit set in a coastal California town; tries for Dashiell Hammett feeling, doesn't quite make it. Policeman Garner tries to solve the murder of a pregnant woman, with a formidable Doberman pinscher figuring prominently. Not bad, but a let-down. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THX-1138
Horror/Science Fiction, 1971, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasance, Maggie McOmie, Don Pedro Colley. Directed by George Lucas. 88 min.

A stunning, bleak visualization of the twenty-first century where humans live in a sterile underground society, ruled over by police robots. One man, THX-1138 (Robert Duvall), tries to make it to the surface. An intelligent and thought-provoking example of the science-fiction genre, it is directed by George Lucas, who later went on to make the immensely popular (albeit more juvenile) Star Wars. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE THIEF WHO CAME TO DINNER
Mystery/Suspense, 1973, USA, PG, * 1/2
Ryan O'Neal, Jacqueline Bisset, Warren Oates, Jill Clayburgh, Charles Cioffi, Ned Beatty, Austin Pendleton, John Hillerman. Directed by Bud Yorkin. 105 min.

videos bullet iconWalter Hill (The Warriors, 48 HRS) wrote the screenplay for this thuddingly dull caper film about a computer-wizard-turned-jewel-thief who must outwit an insurance investigator trying to pin a rap on him. The script would have you believe that the thief (Ryan O'Neal) left a secure job and luxurious life for a high-tech criminal existence because he needed some excitement in his life. It's doubtful that he found it in this movie. Bud Yorkin's experience in television is evident in every frame, and Jacqueline Bisset is wasted as the barely characterized love interest. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR
Mystery/Suspense, 1975, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, John Houseman. Directed by Sydney Pollack. 117 min.

videos bullet iconAn innocent CIA drone becomes caught in a murderous conspiracy within the department in one of the tautest, most suspenseful examples of the mid-1970s political paranoia film. Released in the wake of Watergate, Condor finds energy in an unblinking belief in evil at the highest levels of government, personified here by the clever, chilling performances of Cliff Robertson and John Houseman. Robert Redford, better than usual, plays the agency's good guy, a professional bookworm whose only street smarts come from reading spy novels. Director Sydney Pollack falters during a few frosty romantic interludes; otherwise, he weaves the narrative deftly through well-chosen New York locations and expertly sustains its tension. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT
Action/Adventure, 1974, USA, R, * * *
Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges, George Kennedy, Geoffrey Lewis, Gary Busey, Catherine Bach, Vic Tayback, Dub Taylor. Directed by Michael Cimino. 115 min.

videos bullet iconMichael Cimino's directorial debut (he came to Clint Eastwood's attention after writing Magnum Force for him) is an engaging caper film, sparked primarily by the chemistry between Eastwood's usual stolid presence and Jeff Bridges as his eager new accomplice, who persuades him to restage a bank robbery that Eastwood pulled a few years back in which the loot was lost. Bridges, who was nominated for an Academy Award here, is especially good, an extremely affable screen presence. Cimino's script is also strong, if a bit too jokey at times, but his direction shows the tendency toward unnecessary extravagance that came to a head with Heaven's Gate. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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TIME AFTER TIME
Horror/Science Fiction, 1979, USA, PG, * * * 1/2
Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen, David Warner. Directed by Nicholas Meyer. 112 min.

videos bullet iconA great idea for a science-fiction film, it lives up to its potential. H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) uses his time machine to pursue Jack the Ripper (David Warner) to 1979 San Francisco. There, the Victorian author falls in love with a bank teller who shows him the ropes of the twentieth century -- but the Ripper is learning right along with him. Very imaginative and a lot of fun, with McDowell and Warner standing out as "timeless" adversaries. The scene where McDowell walks into a McDonald's is hilarious. Rousing score by Miklos Rozsa. McDowell met and married Mary Steenburgen while making the film. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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TOMMY
Musical, 1975, Great Britain, PG, * 1/2
Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Roger Daltrey, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Jack Nicholson, Robert Powell, Paul Nichols, Tina Turner. Directed by Ken Russell. 111 min.

videos bullet iconKen Russell's excess is wearying in this dull, popping version of the Who's rock opera. It is also a veritable coup de cinema, a genuine opera (there's no spoken dialogue) with a plethora of scenes that refuse to be forgotten. If only Russell didn't take his kitschy Christ allegories so seriously. And, more important, if only the music weren't so often awful and so badly sung. There is no good acting in the entire movie, although Ann-Margret somehow managed to win a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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TOMORROW
Drama, 1972, USA, PG, * * *
Robert Duvall, Olga Bellin, Sudie Bond, Richard McConell, Peter Masterson, William Hawley, James Franks, Johnny Mask. Directed by Joseph Anthony. 103 min.

videos bullet iconRobert Duvall had his first starring role in this bleak, quiet adaptation of William Faulkner's story about a backwoods farmer who comes to care for an abandoned pregnant woman he finds passed out cold on his land. The movie might have been a study for Tender Mercies, what with its vast silences and its atmosphere of sodden Christian melancholy, and it's easily one of the most earnest, "uncompromised" attempts to bring Faulkner to the screen. Duvall succeeds at disappearing inside the skin of his character, but you're kept so aware of what a monosyllabic dumdum he's playing that the performance never jells. Olga Bellin is affecting. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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TOM SAWYER
Children's, 1973, USA, G, * * *
Johnnie Whitaker, Celeste Holm, Warren Oates, Jeff East, Jodie Foster. Directed by Don Taylor. 104 min.

videos bullet iconWell-crafted remake of Tom Sawyer, the boy wonder of Hannibal, Mo., and his friends Huckleberry Finn and Becky Thatcher. Songs by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman. Panavision. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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A TOUCH OF CLASS
Comedy, 1973, Great Britain, PG, * * 1/2
Glenda Jackson, George Segal, Paul Sorvino, Hildegard Neil, K Callan. Directed by Melvin Frank. 105 min.

videos bullet iconThe oddball pairing of brashly American George Segal with cool, clipped Glenda Jackson gives this old-fashioned, Neil Simon-ish romantic comedy exactly what its title promises. He's a married executive living in London, she's a separated fashion designer, and when they meet, it's lust at first sight. The terribly cute complications that ensue are sometimes hilarious, sometimes not. Firing off the endless dialogue without pausing for air, both stars are witty and attractive. That the superb dramatic actress Jackson won an Oscar for this froth represents the Academy at its most invertedly snobbish. All in all, it's old hat, but old hats can be surprisingly comfortable and touching. Director Melvin Frank, whose credits stretch back to 1942's My Favorite Blonde, cowrote the script with Jack Rose. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE TOWERING INFERNO
Action/Adventure, 1974, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Jennifer Jones, Richard Chamberlain, O.J. Simpson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner. Directed by John Guillermin and Irwin Allen. 165 min.

videos bullet iconIn the biggest and most spectacular of the Irwin Allen all-star disaster entertainments that flourished in the early 1970s, a newly erected skyscraper is packed with people unaware of impending flames. It's up to the heroic team of firefighter Steve McQueen and architect Paul Newman to sort out the killable celebrities from the must-saves. The action sequences (directed by Allen) are well staged and compelling, but the personal-drama vignettes in between (John Guillermin's work) are strictly TV fare. By your third hour you may be hoping for a sudden cloudburst to douse the damn thing and get it over with. That this enjoyable but thoroughly trivial movie won an Oscar nomination for Best Picture is surely one of the sorriest footnotes in Academy history. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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TRACKDOWN
Action/Adventure, 1976, USA, R, * * 1/2
Jim Mitchum, Karen Lamm, Anne Archer, Erik Estrada, Cathy Lee Crosby, Vince Cannon. Directed by Richard T. Heffron. 98 min.

Montana rancher Mitchum (son of Robert, in his first lead role billing) comes to L.A. in search of his runaway sister, who's fallen into the seamy street life. Not too much depth but lots of action. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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TRACKS
Drama, 1977, USA, R, * *
Dennis Hopper, Taryn Power, Dean Stockwell, Topo Swope. Directed by Henry Jaglom. 90 min.

Don't make tracks for this counterculture artifact about the aftermath of Vietnam. For an hour and a half we're taken inside Dennis Hoopper's brain (think about that for a while) as he accompanies his dead pal's body back home on a train. Dennis thinks deep thoughts about the meaning of our involvement in Vietnam, and involvements in general. Heavy stuff; it took Henry Jaglom until 1985 to make a good film (Always). Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK
Drama, 1974, USA, PG, * * *
Tom Laughlin, Delores Taylor, Victor Izay, Teresa Laughlin, William Wellman, Jr. Directed by Frank Laughlin. 170 min.

videos bullet iconThe freak success of the cult hit Billy Jack did not yield similar results in this, its ludicrous sequel. All of the Laughlins are involved in this forgettable family affair as Billy, the half-breed peacemonger, impetuously squares off against government corruption and big-business duplicity. Only Billy is pure, noble, and capable of keeping his principles inviolate. A pitiful canonization of a two-bit counterculture hero. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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TROG
Sci-Fi/Horror, 1970, Great Britain, PG, *
Joan Crawford, Michael Gough, Kim Braden, David Griffin, John Hamill. Directed by Freddie Francis. 91 min.

videos bullet iconMissing Link discovered by anthropologist Joan Crawford naturally gets loose and does its thing. Do yours -- don't watch it. Sadly, Crawford's last film. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE TURNING POINT
Drama, 1977, USA, PG, * * *
Anne Bancroft, Shirlely MacLaine, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tom Skerritt, Leslie Browne, Anthony Zerbe. Directed by Herbert Ross. 119 min.

videos bullet iconLavishly praised when it made its debut, this story of youth and aging in the ballet world trips up a bit in retrospect, but it nevertheless remains a delicious spectacle and a caustic artists' crisis drama. Anne Bancroft movingly plays a dancer at the end of her career, while Shirley MacLaine is her old friend who hung up her points for a home life long ago and whose daughter (the ballerina Leslie Browne) shows a star's luminosity. Mikhail Baryshnikov, in his screen debut, provides a sufficiently quirky love interest, and Tom Skerritt and Anthony Zerbe are finely tuned in smaller roles. The technical work is of the highest precision (especially Robert Surtees's sure camera handling), but ultimately it strikes one as being less a ballet film than a mere palette of beautifully disguised sentimentality. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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TWO-LANE BLACKTOP
Drama, 1971, USA, * * * 1/2
James Taylor, Warren Oates, Laurie Bird, Dennis Wilson, David Drake, Richard Ruth. Directed by Monte Hellman. 101 min.

videos bullet iconCult film about a race across the Southwest between a '55 Chevy and a new GTO has intense direction to compensate for a low-key script. Oates' performance is about as good as you'll ever see and should have had the Oscar. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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AN UNMARRIED WOMAN
Drama, 1978, USA, R, * * *
Jill Clayburgh, Michael Murphy, Alan Bates, Cliff Gorman, Lisa Lucas, Penelope Russianoff. Directed by Paul Mazursky. 124 min.

videos bullet iconA middle-aged woman whose stockbroker husband suddenly leaves her learns that there is life after divorce -- especially if you live in a posh New York condo, acquire the services of a good therapist, and find a prototypical strong-but-sensitive lover who appreciates you for yourself. Paul Mazursky's uplifting drama is not the groundbreaking feminist triumph some critics called it; rather, it's a glossy, well-acted, and finally rather old-fashioned "woman's picture" with a patina of late-1970s "love thyself" conscioussness-raising. On those terms, it's quite successful, and Jill Clayburgh hasn't topped the sensitive, emotionally rich work she does here, even if her final triumph seems more one of luck than of spirit. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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UP IN SMOKE
Comedy, 1978, USA, R, * * *
Cheech and Chong (Richard Marin, Tommy Chong), Stacy Keach, Tom Skerritt, Strother Martin, Edie Adams, Zane Busby. Directed by Lou Adler. 117 min.

videos bullet iconCheech and Chong share the same anarchic qualities that brought the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges new audiences in the 1960s and 1970s. You really have to be trying hard to hold an active dislike for them; work at it as you might, they are just too amicably dumb to hate. They weren't happy with the way their record producer, Lou Adler, directed this, their first film. They felt it was too structured, which may come as a shock to first-time viewers who find it to have a bare plot as an excuse for a lot of old gags, many pulled from their stage shows. The drug humor, being almost entirely based on smoking dope, is not as offensive as might be expected; it's certainly no worse than the millions of drunk jokes that Hollywood has engaged in over the years. Highlight: C & C winning a punk rock contest with a song whose immortal lyric begins "My mamma talk-a to me, try to tell me how to live/ But I don't listen to her 'cause my head is like a sieve." Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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VANISHING POINT
Action/Adventure, 1971, PG, * *
Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, Charlotte Rampling, Dean Jagger, Severn Darden, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. Directed by Richard C. Sarafian. 107 min.

videos bullet iconThis basically silly, pseudo-existential period piece will still appeal to fans of car chases, which comprise about three-quarters of the film. Ex-cop Barry Newman accepts a bet to get a car from San Francisco to Denver in fifteen hours, with considerably more granite-jawed seriousness than Burt and friends in Cannonball Run. Instead of Dom DeLuise, he's accompanied by Cleavon Little, a blind deejay who communicates with him over the airwaves and through some sort of ESP. Whatever initial appeal the film had is undoubtedly lessened in its reduction from a wide-screen format to television. Good rock score, by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends (who appear briefly), Kim Carnes, and others. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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VOICES
Drama, 1979, PG, * *
Michael Ontkean, Amy Irving, Barry Miller, Herbert Berghof, Viveca Lindfors, Alex Rocco. Directed by Robert Markowitz. 107 min.

videos bullet iconAn aspiring rock singer falls for a deaf woman (well played by Irving) who, never having heard him sing, is able to return his love. Sincerely intentioned drama is ultimately compromised by Hollywood formulas. Musical score by Jimmy Webb. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED
Drama, 1976, USA/Spain/Great Britain, PG, * *
Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, Oskar Werner, Malcolm McDowell, Orson Welles, James Mason, Lee Grant, Ben Gazzara, Katharine Ross, Luther Adler, Denholm Elliott, Jose Ferrer, Julie Harris, Wendy Hiller, Fernando Rey, Janet Suzman, Maria Schell. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. 158 min.

videos bullet iconAn endless, melodramatic, and trivialized account of the exodus from Germany in 1939 of nine hundred Jewish citizens, who were put on an ocean liner, told they were traveling to freedom, and never given a hint that their exodus was merely a propaganda move, and an ill-fated one. It's a tragic story, but the seagoing spectacle nearly sinks under the weight of its all-star cast, each member of which is given a trite, tiny subplot that plays like a dour, grouchy segment of The Love Boat. The wildly broad performances seem meant to compensate for the absence of any real drama, and some of the star turns are moving, but most of it comes off as an unintentionally tawdry rendition of a Holocaust tragedy, dressed in typical disaster-movie regalia. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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WALKABOUT
Action/Adventure, 1971, Not Rated, * * * *
Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, Luc Roeg, John Meillon, Robert McDarra. Directed by Nicolas Roeg. 100 min.

videos bullet iconUsually when a movie's described as a "visual tone poem," it's code for "boring." But Nicolas Roeg's art-house adventure is lyrical and intoxicating, and a case can be made for it as one of the great films of the '70s. Jenny Augutter and Roeg's son Luc play a pair of city kids who are abandoned in the Australian outback by their father. Battling nature's harsh elements, they encounter a teenage aborigine (David Gulpilil) on his wandering rite of passage who takes them under his wing. Walkabout is a condemnation of the modern world, but its politics are subtle and unspoken. A gem. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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WALKING TALL
Action/Adventure, 1973, USA, R, *
Joe Don Baker, Elizabeth Hartman, Gene Evans, Noah Beery. Directed by Phil Karlson. 125 min.

videos bullet iconThis is a gussied-up version of a true story about Buford Pusser, a Tennessee sheriff who drove out the local mobsters with the use of a large hickory stick and a disdain for due process. Pusser's methods are as violent and as vile as those of the gangsters he opposes. (Earlier, the mob had him beaten up when he demanded back money they'd stolen from him.) The final scene, in which Pusser leaves the funeral of his wife, killed in an ambush, and runs his car into the last of the villians, is stomach-turning. Manipulative filmmaking at its worst -- a good director and cast in the service of some utterly reprehensible ideals. The sequels were Walking Tall Part 2 (1975) and Walking Tall: The Final Chapter (1977), and it also inspired a 1981 TV series of the same name and a 2004 film remake starring The Rock.Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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WALK PROUD
Drama, 1979, USA, PG, * *
Robby Benson, Sarah Holcomb, Domingo Ambriz, Pepe Serna, Trinidad Silva. Directed by Robert Collins. 102 min.

videos bullet iconA sincerely intentioned but not very forceful gang picture about a Chicano (Benson) who falls for a WASP beauty who goes to his L.A. high school. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE WANDERERS
Drama, 1979, USA, R, * * * 1/2
Ken Wahl, John Friedrich, Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Linda Marz, Erland van Lidth de Jeude. Directed by Philip Kaufman. 113 min.

videos bullet iconPhilip Kaufman's erratic but extremely entertaining contribution to the gang-movie genre is set in the Bronx in 1963, just as the greaser era was giving way to the tumult of the 1960s. The expressionistic violence is too mannered, but in its scenes of teenage sexual initiation and tribal rites, The Wanderers is the equal of any youth movie ever made. All of the performers are excellent, but the elephantine Erland van Lidth de Jeude and the elfin Linda Manz are standouts. A strip-poker secene with Karen Allen and Ken Wahl may be the highlight; try not to miss the hilarious answer to the question, "What color is your nail polish?" Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE WARRIORS
Action/Adventure, 1979, USA, R, * * *
Michael Beck, James Remar, Thomas G. Waites, Dorsey Wright, Deborah Van Valkenburgh. Directed by Walter Hill. 90 min.

videos bullet iconWriter/director Walter Hill takes the existence of youth gangs as a jumping-off point for pure fantasy, an urban gothic kung-fu picture that's one of the snazzier action films of the 1970s. The story of Coney Island Warriors, who fight their way across New York through the territories of a dozen rival gangs, has been set up to generate as many chases and fight scenes as possible. The balletic, bloodless combat episodes are startingly tense and graceful, and Andrew Lazlo's grimly beautiful cinematography keeps the action seamless. When originally shown in New York, The Warriors was reportedly responsible for a couple of small in-theater riots that inspired the formation of the Guardian Angels. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE WATERMELON MAN
Comedy, 1970, USA, R, * 1/2
Godfrey Cambridge, Estelle Parsons, Howard Caine, D'Urville Martin. Directed by Melvin Van Peebles. 100 min.

videos bullet iconAn overbearing, bigoted insurance salesman (Godfrey Cambridge) wakes up one morning to discover that he has turned into a Negro. Cambridge tries hard in this one-joke movie, which wavers unsuccessfully between broad humor and social commentary, but despite his chameleonic abilities, even he can't change this into a worthwhile effort. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE WAY WE WERE
Drama, 1973, USA, PG, * * *
Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Bradford Dillman, Lois Chiles, Viveca Lindfors. Directed by Sydney Pollack. 118 min.

videos bullet iconBarbra Streisand won an Oscar nomination and Robert Redford was certified superstar, and together their chemistry is incredible. The film encompasses three different decades in the stormy relationship of a politically active young woman and a writer. The lush Marvin Hamlisch score (in addition to his hit title tune) helps jerk the tears even more. Important plot development involving the "witch hunts" of the 1950s was cut out just before release and some gaps are evident, but The Way We Were remains a first-class romance. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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WESTWORLD
Horror/Science Fiction, 1973, USA, PG, * * *
Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin. Directed by Michael Crichton. 88 min.

videos bullet iconImagine a Disneyland taken to the extreme: customers pay one thousand dollars a day to indulge in their wildest fantasies. Two friends choose the area with the Western theme where battles, horse chases, etc., are played out by robots. Soon enough, things begin to go wrong. Yul Brynner makes a believable villian in a far cry from his patented "King" role. Richard Benjamin and James Brolin are less successful, but this imaginative, well-paced thriller is still diverting fun from the masterful Michael Crichton. An inferior sequel starring Peter Fonda with Brynner in a supporting role, Futureworld, followed in 1977. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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WHAT'S UP DOC?
Comedy, 1972, USA, G, * * *
Barbara Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, Kenneth Mars, Michael Murphy, Madeline Kahn, John Hillerman, Randy Quaid, Mabel Albertson. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. 94 min.

videos bullet iconPeter Bogdanovich's homage to screwball comedies of the 1930s is a hit-or-miss affair, but it generally maintains an air of merriment. Barbra Streisand, who sings twice, plays an eccentric who disrupts the lives of a square professor (Ryan O'Neal) and his equally uptight fiancee (Madeline Kahn) while attending a convention at a posh San Francisco hotel. Bogdanovich keeps things moving, and the cast is bright and funny. Unfortunately, the director also pushes too hard to get laughs, relying too heavily on his original sources for inspiration. Screwball fans will not be disappointed, but a screening of Bringing Up Baby is preferable to this imitation. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE WILD PARTY
Drama, 1975, USA, R, * * 1/2
James Coco, Raquel Welch, Perry King, Tiffany Bolling, Royal Dano, David Dukes. Directed by James Ivory. 100 min.

videos bullet iconHollywood of the 1920s is the setting for this frustrating but fascinating mixture of fact and fiction, camp, spectacle, and real drama. James Coco gives one of his best performances as washed-up silent-film clown Jolly Grimm, who can't make the transistion to talkies but nonetheless throws a free-for-all bash to celebrate his already outmoded comeback effort. Raquel Welch, touching and effective, is his longtime mistress and Perry King is the slick, glossy matinee idol who beds her when the party turns into an orgy. Murder hangs in the air from the film's first minutes, so much so that the predictable proceedings become emotionally distant and often ring hollow. Director James Ivory is better known for his tasteful, low-key period pieces (The Bostonians, A Room With A View) but shows surprising facility with this gaudy, stylized, deliberately artificial tale. If it doesn't put you off immediately, you may be engrossed. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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WILLARD
Horror/Science Fiction, 1971, USA, PG, * * 1/2
Bruce Davison, Ernest Borgnine, Elsa Lancaster, Sondra Locke, Michael Dante, J. Pat O'Malley. Directed by Daniel Mann. 95 min.

videos bullet iconA disturbed young man (Bruce Davison) enlists the aid of his rodent friends to wreak revenge upon a mean boss, a meddling mother, and a nosy neighbor, in a semiclassic of the evil-animals horror subgenre. Davison plays the crazed wretch with conviction, but the real stars of the show are deftly used rats, especially in one memorable sequence that will make you think twice the next time you eat a peanut butter sandwich. Followed by an execrable semisequel, Ben. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Children's, 1971, USA, G, * *
Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Michael Bollner, Ursula Reit, Julie Dawn Cole, Denise Nickerson, Paris Themmen. Directed by Mel Stuart. 100 min.

videos bullet iconFive children, including a poverty-stricken youth, in a contest allowing them to tour their town's famous chocolate factory. Roald Dahl's classic children's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory always had the makings of a good children's film. But Dahl (who wrote the screenplay) and director Mel Stuart have sweetened and sentimentalized the tart original with bad songs by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley and an overly cute actor playing Charlie, the one unspoiled child in the adventure. The fun now centers around Gene Wilder playing Willy Wonka, the factory owner. His deadpan delivery is the only thing adults who happen to be watching will find tolerable. The rest is like dining on a meal consisting of cake, cookies, ice cream, fudge, and chocolate milk -- a child's dream, but a rather sickening one. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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THE WIZ
Musical, 1978, USA, G, * *
Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, Lena Horne, Mabel King, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross. Directed by Sidney Lumet. 133 min.

videos bullet iconWhatever simple pleasures The Wizard of Oz once provided are lost in this hyperinflated, grotesquely overproduced version of the Broadway hit, which reset the story in New York, adding different songs and an all-black cast. Diana Ross is about twenty-five years too old to play Dorothy (now a Harlem schoolteacher) as anything but a case of arrested development. Sidney Lumet has shot the film in huge, dark vistas which are off-putting to young and old alike. But the transformation of the Brooklyn Bridge into the Yellow Brick Road is a spectacular display, and Mabel King, encased in a costume of chewed rubber-dog toys, makes a great, rowdy Wicked Witch. Still, any movie that wastes Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor and Lena Horne deserves little leeway or forgiveness. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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WOODSTOCK
Documentary, 1970, USA, R, * * *
Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Country Joe and the Fish, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Sha-na-na, John Sebastian, Sly and the Family Stone, Ten Years After, the Who. Directed by Michael Wadleigh. 184 min.

videos bullet icon"Woodstock was just a lot of people walking around in the mud looking to pee," sniffs one too-young-too-remember character in Ann Beattie's Chilly Scenes of Winter. That may be true, especially for anyone born before 1945 or after 1959, but it was still almost half a million people gathered at a farm in upstate New York waiting for a Port-o-San. As a documentary, the feeling Woodstock puts across wavers between "Guess you had to be there" and "Wish I'd been there," with a lot of sadness probably not intended by the filmmakers (such as nostalgia). The performances, in all of their pre-MTV primitiveness, are still fabulous, especially those of Sly and the Family Stone, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Joe Cocker. Michael Wadleigh's split-screen technique, which was about the only way he could even begin to approach the enormity of the event, produces mostly confusion on the television screen; but then, in this case confusion is ambient. Winner of an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE
Drama, 1977, Canada, PG, *
Didi Conn, Joe Silver, Michael Zaslow, Stephen Nathan, Melanie Mayron, Amy Letterman. Directed by Joseph Brooks. 90 min.

videos bullet iconJoseph Brooks, who wrote, produced, directed, and scored this, formerly worked as a composer of advertising jingles, and, sure enough, this has all the depth and sincerity of a greeting card. (We should at least be thankful that he didn't cast himself as the star as well, as he did in his next feature, If Ever I See You Again.) Didi Conn (Grease) plays an aspiring pop singer who makes the mistake of consistently falling in love with the wrong men as she progresses in her career. She and gravel-voiced Joe Silver, as her father, have some moments, but the script and everything else in this is pure syrup. Docked half a star for producing the most annoying title song to become a hit single in the last twenty years. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN
Comedy, 1974, USA, PG, * * * *
Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Gene Hackman, Kenneth Marsh. Directed by Mel Brooks. 108 min.

videos bullet iconArguably Mel Brooks's best film, and perhaps the funniest and most skillful genre parody ever made, Young Frankenstein is less a send-up of the original tale than it is of the lushly memorable Universal horror films of the 1930s that brought the story mass popularity. Its humor, at once broad and wry, will leave you laughing with surprise and recognition all the way. The story has the Baron's grandson (Gene Wilder) journeying to a glorious Transylvania castle to redo the famous experiment and get it right. Instead, he gets Peter Boyle, whose incarnation of the monster is hilarious, apt, and even touching. Riotous, deliciously well-calculated performances from all give the film an energy bordering on the hysterical, and Gerald Hirschfeld's superb black-and-white cinematography provides all the atmosphere anyone could ask. Best moment: Wilder and Boyle, in top hat and tails, sing "Puttin' on the Ritz." Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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ZARDOZ
Horror/Science Fiction, 1974, Great Britain, R, * * *
Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, John Alderton, Sara Kestelman. Directed by John Boorman. 105 min.

videos bullet iconA bold and original science-fiction film that's become a cult item. In the year 2293, ruthless Exterminators wipe out the defenseless Brutals at the command of a giant floating stone head named Zardoz. One of the Exterminators stows away in the statue and discovers a paradise where the inhabitants live forever. Director John (Excalibur) Boorman's weird visual touches are particularly striking. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

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Z.P.G.
Horror/Science Fiction, 1972, Great Britain, PG, * *
Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin, Don Gordon, Diane Cilento. Directed by Michael Campus. 95 min.

videos bullet iconA sci-fi tale with style but no class. Human reproduction becomes a crime punishable by death in the future, but some people try to defy the law. The title, of course, stands for Zero Population Growth. Buy the DVD/Blu-ray/VHS at Amazon.com.

- excerpted from The Complete Guide To Videocassette Movies by Steven H. Scheuer (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1987).

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