Category Archives: 1975 Movie reviews

Tommy-1975

Tommy-1975

Director-Ken Russell

Starring-Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret

Reviewed February 15, 2017

Grade: B+

The film version of Tommy (1975) is a musical fantasy, rock opera based on the famous album recording by The Who in 1969. Composed and adapted by The Who member Pete Townsend, the film tells the story of a deaf, dumb, blonde kid named Tommy. Featuring a star studded cast of actors and singers performing musical numbers, the film is an over the top treat and quite campy- certainly late night fare. The stage version is usually a bit more serious and sedate than the film.  I enjoy the film but it pales in comparison to the stage versions- in which I was fortunate enough to see at my local community theater recently. The film is directed by Ken Russell.

Set during the 1940’s and told mainly through song, we see a montage of Captain Walker (Robert Powell) and his wife Nora (Ann-Margret) on their honeymoon and Walker subsequently being sent off to war leaving a pregnant Nora behind. When his fighter plane is shot down and he is presumed dead, the montage skips ahead five years and Nora is now involved in a relationship with Frank (Oliver Reed). Tommy is five years old and is visited by his father, who is very much alive. After a struggle with Frank and Nora, Powell is killed and a traumatized Tommy is unable to speak, see, or hear (except within his own mind) as Frank and Nora are desperate to make sure he keeps quiet.

As Tommy grows into a young man, he becomes a “Pinball Wizard” , a prodigy at pinball, creating great wealth for Nora and Frank. Still unable to see, speak, or see, he is first abused by his Uncle and Cousin, but then championed as they are all able to get rich off of his abilities. Through the years Nora and Frank attempt to “cure” Tommy of his ailments via a preacher (Clapton) leading a Marilyn Monroe cult and a prostitute (Turner).

The joy in Tommy (the film) is seeing the star studded cast- Elton John, Tina Turner, and Eric Clapton, as well as Roger Daltrey, bring a sense of wonderment to the film. Who doesn’t like to see rock stars perform? Famous actors Jack Nicholson, Ann-Margret, and Reed are featured. The musical numbers are the splendid part of the film and one must be prepared to escape into a world of fantasy. Musical highlights for me include, “Acid Queen”, “It’s A Boy”, and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.

My most recent viewing of the film that is Tommy, disappointed slightly, and this may be due to recently seeing the stage version- far superior in my mind. Ann-Margret, while superb and believable as Tommy’s mum, is not the character that Townsend had in mind. Sultry and sexy, she is clearly cast to bring some sex appeal- nothing wrong with this, but the stage character is more of a working class woman, and more in line with the rest of the cast.

The film also seems a bit too over the top- almost silly at times. But Tommy is an escapist film- based on the album, which is more serious. I wonder if Russell was going for a more late-night, Rocky Horror Show or Little Shop of Horrors type feel. Tommy has its place, certainly, but I would first recommend the stage or the album version as a starting point and move to the film as escapist fare.

Supervixens-1975

Supervixens-1975

Director-Russ Meyer

Starring-Shari Eubank

Top 100 Films-#75

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

I first watched Supervixens in 2008 and, if I am being completely honest, did not much care for it, or rather, was very perplexed by it. I did not know what I had just viewed and was simply caught off guard and blown away- I have since realized that this is part of my love for the film. Is it a comedy? Is it too over-the-top and shameless? Is it trying to degrade women? Now, a mere eight years later, it lands firmly ensconced on my Top 100 Films list and it is similar to a fine wine- it just gets better and better with age. Never before did I think I would fall in love with a sexploitation film, but I have.

Directed by Russ Meyer, noted for his series of 1970’s sexploitation films, Supervixens, is set somewhere in the desert of eastern California. Gas station attendant, Clint Ramsey, a handsome young man, is found irresistible to a series of sexy and large breasted women, all with names beginning with “Super”.

We are introduced to his steady girlfriend, SuperAngel, a bored, horny, feisty woman played by Shari Eubank. Jealous and possessive, she demands for Clint to leave his job and come home to her immediately, which leads to hilarity as they spar outside utilizing an axe as they wrestle and fight. Their nosy neighbor looks on, both tantalized and frightened.

Others who make appearances during Clint’s journey’s are SuperLorna, a horny gas station customer (strangely appearing in only one scene, but gracing the film cover packaging), who sets her sights on Clint much to SuperAngel’s chagrin. SuperCherry is a buxom girl who picks up Clint hitchhiking, SuperSoul, an Austrian farmer’s wife, who seduces Clint at the farm, SuperHaji, a bartender at the local watering hole, and finally, SuperEula, who is black, deaf, and with a white father.

Supervixens, as well as a number of Russ Meyer’s films have influenced countless other famous films to come, and I continue to note the overall influence Supervixens has had on Quentin Tarantino, specifically. The bloody violence mixed with cartoonish characters, as well as Nazi references (a frequent theme of Tarantino’s) and German marching music, Supervixens has a sly sense of humor- wicked almost, but never apologetic. Tarantino uses a similarly outrageous style.

Carrie (SuperVixen bloody in the tub), The Shining (Harry breaking down the bathroom door amid a screaming SuperVixen), Friday the 13th- Part 3 (the camera angle at the top of the hayloft panning down on the approaching climber) are just a few that I have noticed during repeated viewings.

My love of the film is its outrageousness and I find the film to be empowering to women most of all- not degrading. There is also male nudity and reference to the male anatomy numerous times so it is not a one sided exploitation film. Each female is a superhero, of sorts, and despite the sexploitation aspect, the film is quite romantic in spots- the tenderness between Clint and SuperEula is one of my favorites.

I also love the romance between Clint and SuperVixen (a dual role for Eubanks), as she is a reincarnation of SuperAngel. Working side by side at a roadside gas station that she owns, they pump gas and prepare burgers together, while running through the desert in a happy, lovely way. Of course, their romance is threatened by the sinister Harry, who has returned for revenge.

Hilarious, outrageous, and in your face sexual, Supervixens is a camp classic that is so much more than that. Influential and creative, it simply must be seen to be believed. I hope it is never forgotten.

The Passenger-1975

The Passenger-1975

Director-Michelangelo Antonioni

Starring-Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider

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Reviewed July 19, 2015

Grade: A

A true art film in every sense of the word, The Passenger is a thinking man’s film, not for those content to munch on popcorn and escape the day’s stressors, but rather, custom made for a film fan willing to ponder the meaning of the film, revel in the slow pace, and appreciate the film as an art form. The Passenger is tough to “get” throughout most of its over 2 hour running time, but its complexities are also its most beautiful characteristics. To say that the film will leave the viewer with questions is quite the understatement, but is pleasing to analyze and come up with conclusions of meaning. Michelangelo Antonioni directed this film and is well-known for directing Blowup and Zabriskie Point, neither of which I have seen as of this writing.

Jack Nicholson stars as a journalist named David Locke, who is on location in Africa (specifically the Sahara desert in Chad). David’s assignment is to produce a documentary film. While there he mysteriously assumes the identity of a businessman named Robertson, who he finds dead in his hotel room. This task is easy due to the fact that David and Robertson look very much alike. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Robertson is involved in arms dealings and smuggling matters related to the ongoing civil unrest within the country. Flashbacks reveal David’s former life, including his friendship with the businessman, and his relationship with his wife, Rachel, and these scenes are mixed in with the current action until they become more linear with each other.

The film is complex to say the least. The initial scene when David spontaneously decides to switch identities is excellent. We wonder, what are David’s motivations and what is the appeal of him taking over another man’s life? Who is the man? Why is David so unhappy in his own life? In this way the film succeeds immeasurably as the plot is not simply told to the audience like so many other mainstream films. Events seem genuine and not forced for plot purposes.

In current time, whereabouts in London, Rachel sadly mourns the assumed “death” of her husband David, though we learn that Rachel has secrets of her own she has been hiding and suffers from tremendous guilt. To further complicate matters for everyone, she is attempting to find the businessman, since she has learned that he was the last person to see her husband alive. Also mixed into the story is a mysterious young woman whom David meets when the story moves to Barcelona, Spain.

What makes The Passenger so compelling to me is its intricacies- story as well as camera styles. The seven minute long shot towards the end is brilliant filmmaking and the climax is quietly intense. The cameras focus is in a hotel room, switches to the parking lot, and returns to the hotel room. I was transfixed by the character of David enormously, struggling to empathize with him, while all the while enjoying an intelligent character study mixed in with a story of political intrigue.

I do not confess to understand everything about The Passenger and will surely need more viewings to make more sense of it all, but the film fascinates me. In a time of mediocre films, how refreshing to stumble upon a forgotten relic from 1975 and have renewed appreciation for film as an art form.

Barry Lyndon-1975

Barry Lyndon-1975

Director-Stanley Kubrick

Starring-Ryan O’Neal

Top 100 Films-#34

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Reviewed December 23, 2014

Grade: A

Barry Lyndon is a sprawling, beautiful film by famed director Stanley Kubrick. The film is set in the 18th century. Extremely slow-paced, yet mesmerizing, every shot looks like a portrait, and the inventive use of lighting via real candlelight in certain scenes makes this film a spectacle in its subdued beauty, to say nothing of the gorgeous sets and costumes. The film is nothing short of a marvel to view.

The story centers around Ryan O’Neal, who plays an Irish man named Redmond Barry. Redmond is a poor Irish man, but is an opportunist. The film follows his life travels throughout Ireland, England, and Germany, as he becomes involved in duels, is robbed, impersonates an officer, is reduced to becoming a servant, gambles, marries a rich widow, and feuds with his stepson. When he woos and marries the wealthy Countess of Lyndon, he settles in England to enjoy a life of wealth and sophistication. He changes his name to Barry Lyndon. His ten year old stepson, Lord Bullingdon, becomes a lifelong enemy as their hatred for each other escalates and is the focal point of Act II of the film.

The supporting cast is filled with unique characters and in particular, the three sinister characters (Lord Bullingdon, Mother Barry, and Reverend Runt) are delicious to watch especially when they square off against one another as is the case with Runt and Mother Barry. Barry’s two love interests (Lady Lyndon and a German war widow) are entertaining to watch and Lady Lyndon’s costumes are exquisite. Furthermore, Chevalier de Balibari, a wealthy gambler who takes Barry under his wing is a delight. As with many masterpieces, if not for the great casting, the film would not be as wonderful.

My three favorite scenes include the vicious confrontation between Mother Barry and Reverend Runt- an initially polite conversation between two selfish characters gradually spins into viciousness, the duel between Barry Lyndon and Lord Bullingdon- bitter rivals square off in an awkward yet dramatic duel, and when Barry passionately kisses his dying friend- an unexpected homoerotic scene.

Barry Lyndon delves into the issue of class and class distinction and clearly defines the haves and the have-nots and the struggles of the poor to obtain wealth at any means and for the wealthy to retain their good fortunes.

At a running time of over three hours, it may initially turn viewers off, but as time goes on the film will grip hold of the viewer and not let go. Having now seen Barry Lyndon four times, each time I enjoy the film more and more as I become more absorbed by and immersed in the masterpiece. It’s like a fine wine- it gets better with each taste.

Dog Day Afternoon-1975

Dog Day Afternoon-1975

Director-Sidney Lumet

Starring-Al Pacino, Chris Sarandon

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Reviewed October 13, 2014

Grade: A-

Director Sidney Lumet successfully sets the smoldering hot summer afternoon in New York City for his 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon, as Al Pacino plays Sonny, an unemployed, desperate man who, while married with 2 kids, has a gay lover, Leon, (brilliantly played by Chris Sarandon) who he is attempting to help finance a sex change operation. Based on a true story, Sonny, along with his dimwitted friend Sal- played by John Cazale, decides to rob First Brooklyn Savings Bank. Predictably, their plans go awry when Sonny burns a ledger during the robbery attempt and a pedestrian sees the smoke and alerts police.  As the police become aware of the attempted heist, a standoff ensues between Sonny and the cops, led by Detective Moretti, played by Charles Durning, and the robbery receives media coverage.

Most of the action is set inside the stifling hot bank and directly outside on the street and gradually the supporting characters come into play- the hostages, Sonny’s mother, wife, and lover all make contact with Sonny in some way or another and his motivations become clearer to the audience. Dog Day Afternoon is a somewhat message movie that is clearly anti-establishment, in this case anti-police and questioning of the government and the financial establishment, (Lumet also directed Network, also challenging establishment). This is evidenced when after a standoff with police, the crowd sides with Sonny as he chants Attica! Attica!, which is a direct reference to a recent prison riot. Sonny speaks for the working class- the poor, struggling, underpaid worker who cannot afford to feed or adequately take care of their families. The heat and humidity compares perfectly to the pressure felt by most middle class people that still resonates today and leaves the viewer contemplating his or her life. Sonny relates to the bank tellers who do not make much money. In addition, Sonny is sympathetic to the audience in another way. Leon, recently hospitalized at Bellevue hospital, is emotionally dependent on Sonny. He would be lost without him. They share a lengthy and heartfelt phone conversation that is the heart of the film- gay romance had not been explored this way by 1975 in cinema, and the romance was neither shoved down the audience’s throat, nor was it looked past entirely. Their relationship is tender and deep, yet still somewhat ambiguous. Would they stay together? What would become of Sonny’s wife and two children? Would he leave them for Leon in a world that clearly was not ready to accept two homosexual men together? Is that the reason for Leon’s desire for a sex change operation? Chris Sarandon, in too small a part, is wonderful as the gay lover, struggling with sexual identity crisis. Al Pacino gives, per usual, a brilliant portrayal as he takes on a complex character who is far from one-dimensional.

Perhaps not a masterpiece, Dog Day Afternoon, is a very good film, but neither is it strictly a gay themed movie nor an action/thriller- it’s more complex than that. Ironically, Sonny is portrayed as the hero of the film as it is definitely not a standard good police versus bad bank robber’s type of film- quite the contrary. It is much, much more than that.

Salo-1975

Salo-1975

Director-Pier Paolo Pasolini

Starring-Paolo Bonacelli

Top 100 Films-#32      Top 10 Disturbing Films-#1     

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Reviewed October 8, 2014

Grade: A

 Salo is a deeply disturbing, highly controversial, Italian art film from 1975 that is not for the squeamish nor for the prudish. Many people will revile this film for its distastefulness and despise the film entirely- that is if they even give it a chance, which, unfortunately, many people will refuse to. But beyond the filth, perversion, and hatefulness that are themes of Salo, lies a film that is a work of art and must be experienced by the most open minded of cinema lovers.

The film is a dreamlike experience that centers on four wealthy Fascist Italian men of great importance and power, circa 1944, who decide to kidnap eighteen teenage boys and girls- the youngsters must be the cream of the crop and flawless in appearance, only the most attractive will do- one girl missing a tooth is immediately cast aside as a reject. Whether the girl flaunted her marred appearance is open to interpretation.

The youths are then taken to an enormous palace where they are stripped of all clothing and forced to endure four months of torture, sexual perversions, and humiliations at the whim of and for the entertainment of their captors. Finally, at the end of their terms, most are tortured to death by way of scalping, removal of tongues, or having their sexual organs burned off. Also living in the palace are four aging prostitutes who enthrall the men, along with the reluctant prisoners, with tales of kinky and perverted sexual encounters from their younger days mostly involving anal sex.

The film is divided into four sections based on Dante’s Divine comedy: the Anteinferno, the Circle of Manias, the Circle of Shit, and the Circle of Blood. In one sadistically disturbing scene, one of the young girls is forced to eat human excrement by one of her wealthy captors. In another, during the Circle of Shit, everyone dines on a meal consisting of human excrement where lewd sex occurs. One of the female prisoners is tricked into eating food laced with nails- a contest to determine who has the best buttocks results in the winner being brutally murdered. Everyone in the film is bisexual and there are repeated scenes of extreme, almost pornographic, violent sex scenes.

On a side note, most of the youngsters (non-actors) reported having a ball while filming Salo, and knew not what the film was really about, so the feeling on the set was light-hearted, nothing like the finished product.

While deeply disturbing, Salo is a film that some, or many, will simply not get or look beyond the obvious for a deeper message. It is a masterpiece in its ugliness, rawness, and political statements and is quite artistic once one gets past the brutality and rawness of the film.

Salo contains much political symbolism- the excrement serves as the filth of Nazi Germany and authoritarian figures throughout Europe such as Hitler and Mussolini, the abuse of power that was rampant during the time period of the film (World War II era), and the entire film is about the abuse that powerful people (the wealthy fascists equate to powerful Germans) inflicted on the weak (the innocent boys and girls mirror the Jews and the weak).

Is Salo a disturbing, grotesque film? It absolutely is. Is it mindless torture for the sake of torture like movies as extreme as Saw and Hostel? It is not. It is an art film, not a horror film. Banned in many countries for decades due to the extreme content of rape, murder, and torture of individuals thought to be under the age of eighteen, it remains widely banned to this day in several countries. Many film makers, actors, and historians struggle to maintain the artistic merit of the film.

To fully get Salo, one was delve into the mind of the film makers and recognize that it is a statement film, filled with symbolism that challenges and questions the politics of its time. Director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, was brutally murdered by a male prostitute shortly prior to the film’s release. Salo is one of the most disturbing films I have ever viewed.

Mandingo-1975

Mandingo-1975

Director-Richard Fleischer

Starring-James Mason, Susan George

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Reviewed November 24, 2013

Grade: B+

Mandingo is quite the controversial film from 1975 and clearly inspirational to Quentin Tarentinos Django Unchained and also to 12 Years a Slave, as it is very similar to the latter of those films. It centers on a family of southern slave owners who eventually have physical relations and even romantic, loving relationships with their slaves. There is also a sub-plot involving bare knuckle fights to the death among the male slaves that is disturbing to witness.

The entire film is extreme and difficult at times, but also has a mystical, dreamlike element to it and is in no way an exploitation film. The sticky, hot, deep southern setting adds wonderful atmosphere. The romances are an interesting facet to the film, which I have never seen in similar themed movies. There is 1 sympathetic slave owner, but happily, the others get their comeuppance, one by one, which is delightful to watch. Interesting film as it inspired others to follow it and shows how far we have come as a society.

Nashville-1975

Nashville-1975

Director-Robert Altman

Starring-Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Karen Black

Top 100 Films-#7

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Reviewed December 6, 2013

Grade: A

Nashville is a brilliant film. I have found that with each subsequent viewing it creeps higher and higher on my list of favorite movies of all time. The style is unique (largely improvised) and epitomizes creative freedom in film during the 1970’s. Director Robert Altman lets his actors express themselves, even allowing them to write their own songs, the dialogue overlaps at times, which results in a natural feeling as the viewer watches the cast of 24 principles intersect over a period of 5 days at a political rally/country music festivals. It is pure Robert Altman at his finest.

Nashville is a satire of the political arena of the early1970’s and of the Vietnam conflict and politicians, specifically. The film certainly questions and challenges the government with an ironic patriotic setting (Nashville). The country music industry was in an uproar upon initial release of the film. It is a layered film that can be discussed and appreciated and each and every character is cared about. I cannot adequately describe the multitude of nuances in each scene that are noticed over time.

Each character- even some with limited screen time are important to the story as is the political elements- the questions of wars, policies, etc. abound. The chaotic bits and individual storylines come together at the end and many background happenings are incredibly interesting to watch and take note of throughout each viewing. With each experience the audience will notice more and more. I certainly do.

Lily Tomlin, for example, plays Linnea, a haggard mother of deaf children with a supportive husband, a woman who on the surface is heroic, yet she has is a complex character; she is bored with her life and falls in love with a young musician despite the guilt and repercussions.

The musician in question is Tom Frank, played by Keith Carradine. Handsome, and self-absorbed, he arrives in Nashville to dump his bandmates in hopes of a solo career, and beds many willing females. He also lashes out at a soldier at the airport, saying, “kill anyone lately?” Despite his unlikable character, Carradine gives one of the most beautiful performances in the film when he sings “I’m Easy”. Several  of the female characters assume he is singing the song for them, but who is he truly singing it for…if anyone?

Another character to analyze is Barbara Jean, played by Ronee Blakley. A frail yet very successful country singer, she is in and out of hospitals as she frets about her replacement singer stealing her thunder. Her insecurities rise to the surface. In fact, insecurity is a common theme among the characters. Many of them are either unsure, afraid, or not confident about either their musical talent, their relationships, or even themselves.

These are only 3 examples of the 24 richly layered characters- some ambitious, some falling apart, others meandering through life.

Many songs throughout were created by the actors themselves. Nashville is storytelling and filmmaking at its best. A creation by Altman that is deservedly admired, revered, and heralded as a major influence. It is studied in film schools as it should be.