Category Archives: 1977 Movie reviews

The Spy Who Loved Me-1977

The Spy Who Loved Me-1977

Director-Lewis Gilbert

Starring-Roger Moore, Barbara Bach

Reviewed April 27, 2017

Grade: A-

The Spy Who Loved Me is pure James Bond- an installment of the franchise that successfully contains all of the elements of an exceptional Bond film- and then some. By this time Roger Moore was firing on all cylinders and had clearly made the character of James Bond his own- Sean Connery who? With his third appearance in the role, Bond exudes charisma and wry wit, combined with a fabulous story, sexy Bond girls, and a villain worthy of his role, The Spy Who Loved Me achieves near perfection, save for too drawn out of an ending- otherwise, an excellent, memorable film that does not feel dated in the least.

When Soviet and British submarines begin to vanish, the two sides team up and send their best agents forward to uncover the circumstances surrounding the disappearances. Barbara Bach plays Major Anya Amasova, also known as Agent Triple X, a Soviet agent, and naturally Bond becomes enamored with her beauty and intelligence. Together they face off against a megalomaniac named Karl Stromberg, who is intent on destroying the world with nuclear missiles and creating his own underwater world. Stromberg’s sidekicks are Jaws, a giant with steel teeth, and a deadly vixen named Naomi.

Interestingly, if watched as a companion piece to a Bond film of the 1960’s, as I did this time around (You Only Live Twice), the viewer will notice the change in how Bond female characters are treated. No longer servile and obedient to the male characters (Bond specifically) Bond women are now his equals in every way, matching him in career success and intelligence. The main “Bond girl”, (Anya), is a shining example of this, which the film immediately offers. In one of my favorite scenes, Anya is in bed with a handsome man- when “Agent Triple X” is paged, we assume the agent is the man, until Anya slyly responds to the message- it is a nonchalant, yet brazen way to make the point that women have emerged as powerful and sexy figures in the modern Bond world.

The chemistry between Moore and Bach is immeasurably important to the success of the film and their romance is dynamic- they simply have “it” and their scenes smolder with sensuality. To complicate matters, Bond has killed an agent whom Anya was in love with and she plans to kill Bond as soon as their mission is victorious. Director, Gilbert, also adds in a slice of Bond back story- giving truth and rich history to the story-Anya mentions Bond’s deceased wife (married and killed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), a subject Bond deems off limits. This ode to the past only enhances the connection between these two characters.

Villains play an important part in the success of The Spy Who Loved Me. Take Stromberg- he is sophisticated, mature, worldly, and rich- and quietly insane. He also has a lavish dining room in his underwater submarine with exotic fish swimming about through visible tanks- a gorgeous element to this film.

Through a trap door,  victims meet their demise by a vicious killer shark swimming about. One unlucky female assistant, who has double-crossed Stromberg, meets her maker in bloody fashion. Later, Bond sees a severed hand floating about in one of the tanks. This is great creative writing and adds nuances to the film.

Hulking henchman, Jaws, who would return in the next installment, Moonraker, dazzles and impresses with his deadly, steel teeth. A great scene, aboard a high-speed train, and a throwback to 1963’s From Russia With Love, is action packed. Naomi, meets her demise after an ill-fated helicopter chase scene. I would have liked to have gotten more screen time and gotten to know this character. Her brief, but obvious flirtation with Bond is all too short- and he never even gets to share a bed with her!

Not to be outdone, the locales in the film are lavish and gorgeous- Egypt and Italy are countries explored and scenes are shot on location in each country in grand fashion. The Egyptian pyramids are features as a chase and a murder occur during a night time exhibit- also fantastic are the gorgeous shots of Sardinia- a beautiful region in Italy, where Stromberg’s hideout is set.

A mini gripe is the lengthy conclusion to the film. As Bond struggles to recalculate the two nuclear missiles set to destroy New York and Moscow, Bond must rush to make sure they do not hit their intended target. The “final act” of the film just goes on too long with way too many soldiers and men running around in a panic. The action is great, but enough is enough by the end.

Roger Moore once commented that The Spy Who Loved Me was his favorite of all the Bond films to make- it is easy to see why he felt this way. The film contains all of the necessary elements to make it one of the top entries in all of the film franchise and has a magnificent feel to it.

3 Women-1977

3 Women-1977

Director-Robert Altman

Starring-Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek

Reviewed January 1, 2017

Grade: A

Robert Altman is one of my all-time favorite directors and what a pleasure it is to uncover additional gems that he has directed over the years. I have seen 3 Women before, certainly, but some films (the true greats) are like fine wines and get better and better over time, in addition to being appreciated more and more with each passing viewing. 3 Women is a prime example of this. The level of psychology and the changing personalities of the character’s make it a unique and brilliant experience.

3 Women is a psychological feast and the study of three complex characters, hence the title. How fantastic how Altman claimed to have dreamed the entire film, complete with Duvall and Spacek in the roles, and then attempted to recreate the dream on film- he has done a masterful job. The film is certainly dream-like with an interpretive element that will leave the viewer pondering not only the relationships between the three women, but who exactly each woman is- consciously and sub-consciously. Lots of questions will abound as the film concludes. The main relationship is between the characters portrayed by Duvall and Spacek.

Duvall plays Millie Lammoreaux, a chatty and confident woman, who works at a California health spa for elderly clientele. She is statuesque and gorgeous, but surprisingly not well-liked by her colleagues, two of whom are mysterious identical twins. New employee Pinky Rose is a shy and vulnerable mousy type, who takes an immediate liking to Millie, becoming somewhat obsessed with her. The pair eventually move in together and begin to engage  in a mysterious and sometimes volatile friendship dripping in jealousy and lust. Eventually, they switch personalities, only adding to the mystique of the film. They reside in the Purple Sage Apartments, run by Edgar and Willie Hart. Willie is the third woman referenced in the title and is a pregnant painter, creating unsettling murals marveled at by Pinky.

It has been argued that 3 Women was an influence on the David Lynch masterpiece, Mullholland Drive (1992), and the more I ponder this the more that I agree with it. The dream-like, surrealistic qualities are prevalent in both films. Peculiar, strong written women are the central characters in both films and psychology and amnesia are main themes. The southern California setting is identical as are the interpretive elements, and the fantastically odd characters- both lead and supporting. When Pinky’s elderly parents are introduced, this is uncanny to a pair of grandparents featured in Mullholland Drive. Both are superior films so the comparisons are a joy to think about and ponder the complexities.

Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 psychological film Persona is most certainly a large influence on 3 Women. That film dared to explore merging personalities among women.

The final scene of 3 Women is intense and thought provoking. The lives of the women carry on following a tragic event, but each take on a certain persona and role within the family unit that they have forged.

Among other qualities, I view 3 Women as a feminist film, despite being directed by a male. Altman was famous for allowing his actors free reign in dialogue and development and this most certainly had to be the case with 3 Women. One of Altman’s masterpieces.

Altman is certainly a genius in nearly every film that he creates, but 3 Women is probably his most cerebral, and the film that can be talked about and analyzed more than the others. What a pure treat for a complex film lover to explore. 3 Women is not for mainstream audiences nor is is meant to be.

Eraserhead-1977

Eraserhead-1977

Director-David Lynch

Starring-Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart

Reviewed January 5, 2011

Grade: B+

Eraserhead is one of the oddest films that I have ever seen. The film is an early (1977) David Lynch film and is shot entirely in black and white. It is a surrealist horror film.

Entrancing is the locale of the film- a bleak wasteland, of sorts, in an even bleaker town-the name is unknown. Factory worker Henry Spencer (Nance) is garish in appearance-poofy/spiky hair, wild eyes, he is peculiar to say the least. He trods day after day, to and from his job, meeting interesting, yet grotesque characters. He has a child, who is inhuman with a snakelike face. Henry meets an odd woman, while carrying groceries home, and his apartment is filled with rotting vegetation.

While not one of Lynch’s best works, since the “plot” is incomprehensible to follow or make very much sense of, still, Eraserhead is a blueprint for his later works, with odd visuals, and even odder characters, and is to be revered for its imagination alone.

The film is definitely fascinating in its weirdness, but I probably never need to see it again. It’s a must see for any David Lynch fan for the warped experience.

Desperate Living-1977

Desperate Living-1977

Director-John Waters

Starring-Mink Stole, Liz Renay

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Reviewed December 4, 2016

Grade: B

Desperate Living will certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a raunchy, late-night comedy, in similar fashion to other John Waters directed cult-classics. This one however, suffers from the absence of Waters staple, Divine, who did not appear due to scheduling conflicts. For this glaring omission, Desperate Living is not the greatest of the Waters films, but it is a fun experience all the same. The film has choruses of political satire, specifically fascism, and overthrowing the government.

Mink Stole (Peggy Gravel) takes on the lead role as a crazed, mentally unhinged, neurotic woman on the lam with her maid, Grizelda, after they accidentally cause the death of Peggy’s husband. Peggy has been in and out of mental hospitals and is clearly off her rocker as she yells at neighbors about communism. After an encounter with a lewd police officer, the duo are banished to Mortville, a town filled with outcasts and social deviants. They align with others in the town to overthrown the tyrannical Queen Carlotta, played by Waters fixture Edith Massey. Carlotta plots to spread rabies throughout the community and is at war with her daughter, Princess Coo Coo.

The issue with Desperate Living really is the absence of Divine, originally set to play Mole McHenry, a self-loathing female wrestler, determined to receive a sex change operation. One imagines Divine in this important role, which was played by Susan Lowe, a capable star, but no Divine. With Divine in the part, the hilarious possibilities are endless. Mink Stole carries the movie well, but traditionally being a supporting player in Waters films, is not quite the star the film needs to be a true success.

This is not to say that the film is a dud- it is entertaining and will please most Waters fans. It contains gross-out moments and vulgarity from the very first scene- as the opening credits role, we see a roasted rat, daintily displayed on good china, on an eloquent dinner table, presumably to be served.

Later, Carlotta meets her fate by being roasted, pig style, on a spit with an apple in her mouth. Another character is executed by being shot in the anus. The offensive moments never end!

There also exists a quite controversial scene that I am surprised made the final cut. Peggy, already in a frazzled state due to a neighbor-boy accidentally shooting out her bedroom window, she is shocked to find another boy playing “doctor” with a little girl in her downstairs basement. Both children are completely naked, leaving not much to the imagination. This scene is tough to watch as one wonders what the child actors thought of all of this. I have never viewed another scene quite like this in film.

Otherwise, Desperate Living is filled with cartoon-like characters, lots of sexually deviant leather men, grizzled men with facial hair, and other odd looking characters, making up the community of Mortville. Water’s set creations for the exterior scenes of the town are great- using mainly cardboard and rubbish he found throughout Baltimore where the film was shot, the sets show a bleak yet colorful underworld.

Desperate Living is a raunchy good time with over-the-top acting, trash filled moments, and laugh out loud fun. The lack of any Divine makes it not the first offering to watch from the Waters collection. Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble would take that honor.

Suspiria-1977

Suspiria-1977

Director-Dario Argento

Starring-Jessica Harper

Top 100 Films-#54     Top 20 Horror Films-#14

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Reviewed July 10, 2016

Grade: A

Suspiria is a horror masterpiece, made in 1977, by my favorite Italian horror director, Dario Argento. A combination of complex storytelling, glossy colors, and a unique art direction, make this film a treasure and an influence in “the look” of a film attempting to achieve an interesting art direction choice. The color red is highly prevalent throughout Suspiria, which makes sense due to the subject matter of witchcraft and demons. The musical score is brilliant and chilling. This film is perfect and one of my favorites.

The film takes place in Germany and the opening sequence is fantastic. We meet our heroine, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), an American ballet student, as she arrives in blustery Munich to attend a prestigious ballet school. The shot of the driving wind and rain as she exits the airport are a great example of the ultimate style of this film. Suzy meets a creepy taxi driver who drives her to the school, where she witnesses a frantic student, Pat Hingle, fleeing the school. Suzy is then denied access to the school by a mysterious voice over the intercom.  The focus of the film then shifts briefly to Pat’s perspective as she meets a sinister fate when she stays with a friend.

One fantastic aspect of Suspiria is we know something is wrong with the ballet academy, we just do not know what or who it involves. With great creativity, Dario Argento builds a set that is modern, sophisticated, but laced with underlying menace. As we meet the supporting characters, Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli), we know something is not right with them either. Blanc is kindhearted; Tanner is a drill sergeant, but both seem to have something to hide and claim to know nothing of Pat’s terror. There is also Daniel, the blind piano player, whose seeing eye dog suddenly turns vicious.

The plot is complex and does not always make perfect sense, but the elements of Suspiria make it a masterpiece.  Pat’s death scene is laced with greatness as she dangles from a high glass ceiling dripping blood. Her hysterical friend is sliced to bits by the falling glass. This is the best double-death scene in horror film history.

When creepy maggots invade the school leaving the girls feeling for safety, the film goes all out. A later scene involving Suzy’s best friend and fellow student, Sarah, attempting to flee the school via the basement, only to struggle in a pit of razor wire is splendid.

Much of Suspiria is dubbed in English mainly due to the actors either speaking German or Italian, but Jessica Harper and Joan Bennett have distinguishable voices, which lend texture and richness to the dialogue.

Suspiria is a grand horror film, not solely for its mysterious story, but for all the added components that Argento throws into the mix- strange characters, weird sets, and the heavy dose of blood red- pretty fitting.

Annie Hall-1977

Annie Hall-1977

Director-Woody Allen

Starring-Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

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Reviewed December 3, 2013

Grade: A

Annie Hall is Woody Allen’s finest work and that is says something as his list of wonderful films goes on and on (Manhattan, Blue Jasmine, and Interiors) are gems. Annie Hall is a witty, intelligent, great comedy. It is sharply written, quirky, and neurotic all rolled into one. Comedy is a tough genre. Romantic comedies are even tougher to get right.

My favorite part of the film is Woody Allen himself. Some might say he plays himself, but he is engagingly hysterical as the neurotic, skeptical, Jewish, cynical New York man named Alvy. He meets and falls in love with equally neurotic Annie Hall, played by Diane Keaton. They quarrel, love, and traverse from New York to California and back.

There are some very funny scenes (lobster, movie theater line, and the drive through Manhattan), and the intelligent, crisp dialogue makes this a top notch comedy.