Good Film Time Machine: 1974

First, we travelled to 1985, then a quick jaunt to my senior year of high school, and now the year that that made this blog and me possible…1974. In the time, I had to think about what movies were released. Really, can you remember the movies that came out the year you were born? When I ran down memory lane, I couldn’t believe the amazing movies that came out that year, including one my favourite: Chinatown. The testament to how well these movies were made…they’re still good. And, as a film fan, you’ll notice that many of these films have influenced the ones that came after them. (Sidenote: the way they did trailers in the 70s was awesome)

Mel Brooks Bonanza

Blazing Saddles – what’s a former slave/current law man to do: the town is racist, the local politician is corrupt, and your deputy is a drunk. They figure it out and it’s pretty amazing what they were able to get away with in the 70s.

Young Frankenstein – Mel Brooks had his best year in ’74, first his ode to westerns and then this, his homage to classic monster movies. The descendent of the famous scientist is doing his best to ignore his past until it shows up at his door and drags him away. Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced Franken-steen) and Marty Feldman as Igor (pronounced Eye-gor) are hilarious, playing off each other masterfully.

Award Winners

The Godfather Part II (won the Academy Award for Best Picture) – Let me smack you in the face with a Cannoli: Robert De Niro in his prime/Al Pacino in his prime, in a one of the greatest gangster movies of all time. Hell, just one of the best movies. Watch the side-by-side rise of Michael Corleone and his father Vito Corleone, doing gangstery stuff.  It’s awesome. Well, not so awesome for Freido.

The Longest Yard (Golden Globes) – You may not know this but Burt Reynolds was the biggest movie star of the 70s. Yes, Burt Reynolds. You may also not know that Adam Sandler didn’t make this movie first. Burt didn’t it first. And better.

Chinatown (Golden Globes) – One of the best movies ever. Way ahead of it’s time, Jack Nicholson is a small time private investigator, digging into…I don’t know. Adultery? Water? Murder? It gets a little crazy in the best way possible. Did I mention Roman Polanski directed this?

Roles of a Lifetime

Lenny – So, when you think of one of the edgiest, offensive, innovative comics of his generation… And then you think of who should play that person. Do you think Lenny Bruce played by Dustin Hoffman? Me neither. But it happened. Listening to it now, it seems so tame but in the 60s, he was shocking as hell. It’s an interesting snapshot of a different time and culture. If you like those movies about people that like to fight the establishment just by being themselves ala The People vs Larry Flynt, you’ll probably like this.

The Conversation – What kind of person just listens to conversations for a living? Just sits, listens, records, repeats. Well when that person is paranoid and suspects a possible murder, it gets interesting. Probably one of my favourite roles for Gene Hackman and another great film directed by Francis Ford Coppola that doesn’t have a Godfather in the title. If you’ve seen Enemy of the State, this character inspired that one.

Things that Went Boom

Starting in 1970 with Airport, the disaster movie was a pretty big deal this decade. This year was were it peaked with, count’em, THREE entries in the genre: Airport 1975, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake. I’d write separate entries but this pretty much sums it up: Lots of biggish stars are brought together, a big bad thing happens, things blow up, many of stars die, a few survive. Every disaster movie ever. What’s even more fantastic is that both Charlton Heston and George Kennedy were in two of them.

Murder and Mystery

Murder on the Orient Express – I had forgotten Albert Finney had played Agatha Christie’s most famous detective, Hercule Poirot. This was the star-studded movie of the year that didn’t involve major disasters. A classic whodunit, told by one of the best directors: Sidney Lumet (he did “little” films like Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men and Network). It’s pretty much Mystery Theatre on steroids but who doesn’t need that every once in a while.

Dirty, Dirty Violence

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – A guy with a screwed up family (don’t we all) decides to embrace his skill at arts and crafts (knitting is pretty big) by making a mask out of human flesh and killing people (not so common). They keep remaking this movie and they keep ripping it off in other movies. This may not even be a good movie, but it is an iconic one.

Death Wish – Charles Bronson was a very busy actor, working in film and television for 50 years…but this is the role he’s best known for and the one that’s been ripped off over and over. A peaceful man is confronted by the horror of his environment when someone he loves is hurt so, when he’s turned away by the authorities, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Sound familiar? Even Bronson wasn’t the first since a lot of Westerns use this story too, but he was one of the more memorable.

From Literature

The Great Gatsby – The trailers for the latest version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carrey Mulligan are currently playing, but Robert Redford and Mia Farrow took a stab at the classic too. It might not be as flashy as the modern approach but the tragic and mysterious tale of Jay Gatsby is still a pretty compelling one, especially with Redford and written by Francis Ford Coppola (that’s No #3 for him this year)

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad – I grew up watching Sinbad movies with my dad and fell in love with the special effects work of Ray Harryhausen. Sword fighting skeletons, cyclops, centaurs…whether it was Greek mythology or Sinbad movies, I was in. I can’t say this was one of the better of the Sinbad movies (that would be the 7th Voyage of Sinbad) but if you love fantasy films and are curious of the history of effects work, please make room for this.

Did I miss any? What was your favourite film from this list and why? I gots to know.

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