Category Archives: 1976 Films

Marathon Man-1976

Marathon Man-1976

Director John Schlesinger

Starring Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Scheider

Scott’s Review #1,359

Reviewed April 29, 2023

Grade: A-

Writer, William Goldman, was involved in two politically charged, taut thrillers released in 1976 that can easily be watched back to back. Fast-paced and rapidly edited, thrilling action-packed offerings are on the menu.

The Academy Award-winning All the Presidents Men (1976) and Marathon Man (1976) are highly recommended since both are in the same vein. They are part of why I love 1970s cinema so much freedom and rich character development combined with a sole vision are admirable traits.

John Schlesinger, famous for Midnight Cowboy (1969) and other films, directs.

Both films are written by Goldman and each stars actor Dustin Hoffman so the similarities are endless. And yet, each has its own identity.

In Marathon Man, Thomas “Babe” Levy (Hoffman) is a Columbia graduate student and long-distance runner, residing in New York City. His older brother, Doc (Roy Scheider), is a government agent chasing down a Nazi war criminal named Szell (Laurence Olivier).

Babe does not know Doc’s career until a tragic event finds him involved in a plot of stolen gems and sadistic madmen. Even his girlfriend, Elsa (Marthe Keller), becomes a suspect as everything Babe believes to be true is suddenly turned upside down.

At over two hours there is not a slow moment in the film.

We meet Babe as he runs throughout New York City so that the audience learns his obsession with running could correlate to his need to escape from something.

This proves to be true when we learn the brother’s father committed suicide after being investigated during the Joseph McCarthy era when civilians were suspected and accused of being communists.

So, the backstory made me sympathize with Babe and Doc and fleshed them as characters. Hoffman and Scheider are superb and show the different nuances between the personalities of the brothers. Doc is sophisticated and Babe is common, though highly intelligent.

The musical score, created by Michael Small must be mentioned. Oftentimes in film, the score serves as more or less ‘background music’ and can go unnoticed. This is not the case in Marathon Man and several times I noticed the music-enhancing sequences, especially when peril was involved.

I was pleased when I learned that the iconic Laurence Olivier plays the villain, Szell, in the film. He is believable as a vicious German Nazi who specializes in a unique brand of dental work. First blonde and then bald, the physical nature of the role is showcased. He also calmly performs torturous tactics using dental tools.

Marathon Man is made up of a series of scenes that will either enthrall, make the audience squirm, or in some cases both.

Speaking of dental work, any viewer who has a phobia or dislike of going to the dentist may want to fast forward past the sequence when Babe is forced to endure some stylized poking and prodding. Szell and his henchmen are convinced that Babe knows more than he is letting on and are determined to make him reveal all.

Early on, a terrifying scene centering on road rage in Manhattan is as good as it gets and reveals the gist of the plot. Nazis, anti-semitism, and a fiery gasoline truck encompass a speedy and argumentive car chase scene.

The sequence is heart-racing, nail-biting, and revealing.

Others flesh out the film like a quiet lunch at a lovely French restaurant. Doc takes Babe and Elsa out where they dine on lavish courses of creamy, sophisticated cuisine and wine. The richness of the food and culture enhances the earlier scenes set in Paris.

The final thirty minutes of Marathon Man are the best part. A series of shootouts in the suburban rural farmland and foot chases in downtown Manhattan culminate in a showdown between Babe and Szell near a water tank in Central Park.

A strong appeal for viewers is experiencing scene after scene in New York City as many exteriors were shot there.

The plot of Marathon Man (1976) is sometimes too complicated and all events do not add up satisfyingly. The who’s who and realism is a tough sell but it hardly matters. The film entertains and is a high-energy thrill ride and that is more than enough for me.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Laurence Olivier

The Enforcer-1976

The Enforcer-1976

Director James Fargo

Starring Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly, John Mitchum

Scott’s Review #1,330

Reviewed January 2, 2023

Grade: B+

The Dirty Harry film series is pure, gooey 1970s machismo entertainment.

Featuring a vigilante-type police detective who rids the world of the bad guys is pleasure personified if not all that realistic. In these films there exists only the good versus the destructive and social issues, if they are explored, are not the most relevant part of the film but more reasoning as to why the events are occurring.

Nonetheless, the films are top-notch in action with quality gun fights and violence creating a powerful crime thriller film franchise that still holds up well.

They are much better than the similar yet uninspired and poorly acted Death Wish films featuring Charles Bronson.

The Enforcer (1976) is a third of five films from 1971 until 1988 following the 1971 masterpiece Dirty Harry and the nearly as good Magnum Force in 1973.

This one provides a slightly progressive and feminist approach that would also continue in 1983’s Sudden Impact and adds some much-needed humor creating a lighter touch.

Feminism is the inclusion of a female cop due to a new affirmative action initiative who goes toe to toe with the masculinity and conservatism of our main character.

Officer “Dirty Harry” Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is reassigned from homicide to personnel after his latest use of excessive force exhausts his outranking superiors. Demoralized, he angrily assumes his duties while a new case disrupts the San Francisco Bay Area.

A new terrorist group calling themselves the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force organizes a series of crimes in San Francisco, hoping to enrich themselves. Led by Bobby Maxwell (DeVeren Bookwalter) they wreak havoc and create fear.

When they kidnap the mayor (John Crawford) and steal rockets and rifles for their next attack, Harry and his new female partner, Inspector Kate Moore (Tyne Daly), must stop the terrorists.

To measure up to 1971’s Dirty Harry is a nearly impossible feat but The Enforcer continues the rhythm with largely the same basic script. A main part of the fun is watching the grizzled Callahan feud with his superiors and being reduced to working with a female cop.

Naturally, he and Moore eventually become buddies and I like the lack of sexual chemistry. She’s not interested in his affection and neither is he so their relationship is focused on serving and protecting the public.

Daly is terrific in the role of Moore which led to her career-defining role in the television series Cagney and Lacey. Rather than playing her as a bitch she is warm and determined to immerse into a man’s world.

She’s a great character but unfortunately is not explored as much as she could have been.

The filmmakers also keep the setting of San Francisco intact which is a wise move and a treat for those moviegoers that love a good exterior sequence or two.

A fabulous final sequence finds the events of the film heading to a Giants game at the historic Candlestick Park and finally a showdown at Alcatraz Island. These trimmings are so necessary to fans anticipating the juicy and pulsating locales of the populous city.

No, Eastwood is not the greatest actor in the film but he is the best at playing Callahan. He carries the film seamlessly and will make conservatives smirk as he endures the irritations of liberal-minded decision-makers.

A weak explanation of the real motives of the terrorist group is unimportant. It’s the violence, the thrills, the chases, and Eastwood and Daly that make this movie pure fun.

The Enforcer (1976) doesn’t challenge or add to the creativity of cinematic art but provides a shoot-em-up experience featuring a confident and charismatic main character.

Forever immersed in the good tidings of 1970s cinema is enough to continue the successful string of Dirty Harry films.

A Star Is Born-1976

A Star Is Born-1976

Director Frank Pierson

Starring Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson

Scott’s Review #1,276

Reviewed July 13, 2022

Grade: B

Four incarnations of A Star Is Born: 1937, 1954, 1976, and 2018 have been created. Strangely enough, the most recent film starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is worlds above the others, though I haven’t yet seen the 1937 version.

The fourth time is rarely the charm in film remakes.

The focus of this review, however, is largely on the 1976 film starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. A hit movie at the time, and nonetheless despised by some, the film is perfectly fine though it bears multiple repeatings that it’s inferior to the 2018 film.

There is no question about that.

Amazingly, it was nominated for four Academy Awards and deservedly won for Best Song. The other nominations are generous.

Watching A Star Is Born circa 2022 the 1976 rendition suffers severely from a dated tone mostly because of the jaw-droppingly hideous perm hairdo worn by Streisand.

Did somebody think it was flattering in 1976?

The chemistry between Streisand and Kristofferson starts tepid but increases in intensity as the film plods along. The ending is underwhelming and I expected more emotional pizazz than I was given, leaving me with almost a ‘so what’ reaction to a devastating turn of events.

Until that is, Barbra sings her heart out in one unbroken, gut-wrenching shot of seven or eight minutes.

For those unfamiliar, the story surrounds John Norman Howard (Kristofferson), a troubled rock star on the decline, frequently indulging in excessive drugs and drinking and trying to write hit records.

He drunkenly wanders into a club one night and watches aspiring singer Esther Hoffman (Streisand) perform and is instantly smitten. The two begin dating, and soon John lets Esther take the spotlight during his concerts.

However, even as Esther finds fame and success with her singing, John continues his downward spiral.

Let’s face it. The main draw is who is playing the lead roles in a film like A Star Is Born. To make a love story work there must be sizzling chemistry so that the audience is invested in the romance. Streisand commands the center stage and her singing is the selling point.

Otherwise, Ms. Streisand suffers another bout of miscasting as she did in 1969’s Hello, Dolly. She’s simply too talented and established to be believable as an aspiring singer.

Her singing saves the film.

The gorgeous song “Evergreen” is a quite powerful moment and great strength. Without it, the film would have felt lacking and mediocre. The tune rises the overall experience up a notch.

The chemistry is merely the warm-up act. It’s ho-hum until a smoldering bathtub scene occurs where John and Esther soap each other down and fall madly between the sheets for a night of passion.

It’s Streisand’s sexiest scene and the romance takes off.

Back to Streisand’s vocals, the scene is preceded by a gorgeous songwriting sequence between John and Esther at the piano where they craft a new song. As they collaborate, the connection and bond between the characters are birthed.

Those are the romantic highlights.

Otherwise, the scene where John becomes infatuated with Esther holds no appeal since he is drinking and arguing with another patron and barely has time to notice her. This was thankfully changed in the 2018 version when John was mesmerized by the rising talent.

Additionally, when John invites Esther to his concert and she watches from backstage it goes nowhere. In the 2018 version, he drags her out to perform with him and it’s a moment. 

Some films are best reviewed on their own merits but what great fun to compare renditions of the same film because, why not?

The supporting characters have little to do except for an impressive turn by Gary Busey as John’s drug-pushing manager.

There is little reason to watch A Star Is Born (1976) more than once, or at most twice to confirm that the film lacks a bit. It’s not terrible but hardly memorable unless the desire is to giggle over an incredibly bad 1970s hairstyle by one of the greatest divas.

Then, move on to the outstanding Cooper/Gaga 2018 version.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song-“Evergreen” (won), Best Sound

Bernice Bobs Her Hair-1976

Bernice Bobs Her Hair-1976

Director Joan Micklin Silver

Starring Shelley DuVall, Veronica Cartwright 

Scott’s Review #1,141

Reviewed May 12, 2021

Grade: B+

Much transpires within Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976), a short film based on a short story by famed author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

For the non-literary crowd, Fitzgerald penned the worldly The Great Gatsby, a treasured story from the 1920s Long Island, New York setting.

The story was made into television production in 1976 for PBS for The American Short Story.

Bernice Bobs Her Hair is a quieter story than Gatsby, and more peculiar, resulting in a fabulous tale of revenge with a similar time of 1920, the cusp of the American Jazz Age.

The setting is presumed to be Long Island or Westchester County, New York though that’s never confirmed.

Regardless, our main character, Bernice (Shelley DuVall) hails from Wisconsin and comes to visit family.

The visit isn’t exactly peaches and cream as you can imagine.

The bitchy and sophisticated Marjorie (Veronica Cartwright), Bernice’s cousin, pities her for being awkward and unlikable, far inferior to the elitist company that Marjorie keeps. She rolls up her sleeves and becomes determined to shape Bernice into a sophisticated vixen, molding her into a girl who gets what she wants.

The idea ends up biting her in the ass.

Bernice, mocked for being quiet and dull, blossoms into a brave young woman, titillated by the attention of the society boys. She delights in having her pick of the litter and daringly proclaims to have her hair bobbed in a few days, to the shock and chagrin of the rich group of friends.

Would a young woman ever dare to do something so drastic for attention? Hell, she’ll have to go to a barber and be sheared!

Marjorie’s jealousy increases as Bernice’s confidence soars leading to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion.

DuVall is delightful in the role. The actress, very unconventional looking, appears the prettiest I’ve ever seen her, even when she plays dowdy. Telling so much with her wide-eyed and expression-filled eyes, she seduced me into her world of mystique and wonderment. DuVall has a charisma all her own and fascinates in any film she appears in.

Not to be overlooked, Veronica Cartwright, possesses Marjorie with fury and pizazz, also doing so much with her trademark blue eyes. The actresses work so well together as they eventually play a seductive game of will and wit.

For the boys, there are a few love interests to note. I loved seeing Bud Cort, struggling for work after his groundbreaking role in 1971’s Harold & Maude, appear in the short film. Insecure, he is nonetheless smitten with Bernice, just as Draycott Deyo (Patrick Byrne) is.

Other handsome suitors like Mark La Mura, of daytime television fame, appear.

The costumes and sets are lavish and fitting to the 1920s which enhanced my enjoyment. The hot summer setting also infuses the film with smoldering and rigid tension enhancing the experience. There is nothing like escaping into the past in style and enchantment.

The final revenge is extremely fulfilling as the classes clash. The socially awkward Bernice conquers the WASP’y Marjorie like a plain Jane would a beautiful evil princess. It’s quite satisfying.

The entire experience of Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976) is pleasing and compelling. The kicker is when Bernice does indeed ‘bob her hair’ she looks amazing and trendy for the decade to follow. She gets her just desserts in more ways than one and the audience cheers her to victory!

Taxi Driver-1976

Taxi Driver-1976

Director Martin Scorsese 

Starring Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster

Scott’s Review #776 

Reviewed June 20, 2018

Grade: A

It is incredibly tough to choose a favorite of all Martin Scorsese films since nearly all of them are incredibly well made.

Goodfellas (1990), Raging Bull (1980), and Taxi Driver (1976) immediately come to mind. Taxi Driver may be Scorsese’s darkest film of all.

The thriller is intense, dangerous, and ferocious led by a riveting performance by Robert De Niro- a regular in the director’s earlier films. The film is nail-biting and compelling and a great, character-driven watch.

Set in the bustling and (at that time) decrepit New York City shortly following the Vietnam War, Travis is a veteran suffering from some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder. Lonely and angry, he works as an overnight taxi driver who falls for a snooty presidential campaign worker, Betsy, (Cybill Shepherd).

He also forges a relationship of a protective nature with an underage prostitute, Iris, (Jodie Foster). As he gradually spirals out of control due to the unhappiness surrounding him, he plots to kill Betsy’s boss while protecting Iris from her pimp (Harvey Keitel).

One great aspect of Taxi Driver is the insanely good performance by De Niro. Along with the later role of Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, that and his role of Travis Bickle are my two favorite roles of his. With Bickle, he is unpredictable, on edge, and angry, as De Niro infuses the character with those qualities in a seamless fashion.

As he teeters on the brink of insanity and is ready to snap at any given moment, the character is impossible not to watch with both fear and marvel. De Niro is that brilliant. 

While not to be outdone by the aforementioned negative and dangerous qualities, Travis also possesses a few benevolent traits making the character complex. In large part, this comes into play with the protective nature he develops towards Iris.

Almost like a big brother/kid-sister dynamic, the deranged man treats her with kindness rather than taking advantage of her as he easily could have. The diner scene the two actors (De Niro and Foster) share is rich with interesting dialogue and bonds the characters together.

Travis also harbors love and hate emotions towards Betsy (Cybill Shepherd). As she is a political volunteer for a potential presidential candidate, Travis first encounters her by way of spying on her through large glass windows where she works.

Coaxing her to accept a date, they have coffee and eventually attend a film together. Betsy is offended since the film is pornographic and their date goes south fast. After a vicious showdown between the pair at the campaign office, Travis goes off the deep end and plots revenge.

The gritty atmospheric approach that Scorsese provides when filming Taxi Driver is an enormous highlight of the film. Dingy, dark, and dangerous, the director creates ample scenes showing just how seedy New York City was in the 1970s.

Working the night shift, sure to bring out the rancid and most decaying elements of the city, Travis experiences many cretins and undesirables in his work- and arguably is one of them! Many scenes feature the notorious 42nd Street and its accompanying porn theaters that made New York City famous (or infamous!) at the time.

In one of the film’s most frightening (and best) scenes, Travis can get his hands on a gun. He practices drawing his weapon in the mirror repeatedly uttering the famous line “You talkin’ to me?” as we wonder if he will pull the trigger.

The scene is fraught with cerebral tension and quite frightening. Later, when Travis shaves his head and brandishes a mohawk, his new look is downright terrifying.

Scorsese creates a dark world that is enriched by his incredible cinematography and astounding representation of interesting characters in dangerous and unstable times.

Taxi Driver (1976) is a treasure to watch closely and appreciate as a timeless piece of art. Instead of decaying in the vaults of cinema, the film gets better and better with age.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor-Robert De Niro, Best Supporting Actress-Jodie Foster, Best Original Score

The Omen-1976

The Omen-1976

Director Richard Donner

Starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick

Top 100 Films #67     Top 20 Horror Films #18

Scott’s Review #331


Reviewed January 8, 2016

Grade: A

On the heels of similarly themed supernatural horror films, and all three classics in my view, The Omen (1976) follows suit with the religious-minded terrifying piece that resembles both The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

All three films are cherished gems and favorite horror films of mine.

The Omen (the last to be released) is quite possibly the weaker entry having taken much from the other two films, and at the forefront is a child encompassed by devilish forces.

But to say “weaker” implies it is not good, which is not the case- The Omen is a masterpiece.

Set mostly in London, the film begins in Rome. Gregory Peck plays a powerful diplomat, Robert Thorn. Robert’s wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), has just given birth to a baby, who dies.

Unbeknownst to her, Robert and a priest have taken a newborn whose mother has just died, thereby fooling Katherine into thinking she has delivered a healthy baby boy. They name their child Damien.

Soon, Robert is named U.S. Ambassador of the United Kingdom- an astounding honor, but his and Katherine’s lives spin out of control when strange events begin to occur surrounding Damien, and they realize the child is not “right”.

I adore the many aspects of The Omen. The locale of sophisticated and royal London is perfect. The Thorns live in a grand, palatial estate just oozing with possible horror elements.

During a vast party for little Damien’s fifth birthday, the attendees are gathered on the perfectly manicured grounds of the Thorn home. It is a bright and cheery afternoon.

Suddenly, from the top floor bedroom window, Damien’s fresh-faced nanny publicly hangs herself from the window proudly shouting, “This is all for you, Damien”!

This scene is one of the most horrific and surprising scenes in the film.

When Damien’s new nanny shows up, she is off-putting and sinister. The inclusion of a pack of black dogs hovering around the estate is fiendish, and an innocent trip to the zoo results in the scared animals fleeing from Damien as if he is the antichrist, which of course, he is revealed to be.

Fantastic is the religious element of The Omen, a sure measure to frighten and freak out audiences brave enough to watch this film.

Who will not be on edge as a sweet-looking little kid is assumed to be the devil?  Religious elements in horror have been prevalent throughout the film ages.

Perhaps it is the Italian and British accents and settings that add layers of fear to the film.

What I love most about the film is its cynicism. The Omen is not a happy film by any means, nor does it result in a happy ending- Satan wins in the end.

Two memorable scenes are the pole through the heart of the priest scene and the gruesome decapitation of a photographer by a sheet of glass. In both scenes, Satan causes the deaths.

The finale of the film is incredibly compelling and downright shocking- the face-off of Robert and Damien in a church and the prevailing conclusion sets the stage for a sequel, which of course there was more than one.

The sinister smile at the end of the film is immeasurable in its evil nature.

The Omen (1976) is a film that I love to watch and revel in fright when the chills start to creep up my back.

What a fantastic film.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Original Score (won), Best Original Song-“Ave Satani”



Director Brian De Palma

Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie

Top 100 Films #37     Top 20 Horror Films #12

Scott’s Review #325


Reviewed January 5, 2016

Grade: A

Carrie is a horror film from 1976 that is adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name.

Many King adaptations have failed, but Carrie (along with The Shining) is among the best.

Going beyond the scope of horror and receiving more than one major Oscar nomination (largely unheard of in horror), Carrie influenced films and filmmakers for decades beyond release.

This is largely due to the dream-like and breathtaking direction of mood master Brian De Palma.

By this time (2016), the film and the character of Carrie White were legendary.

Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is a lonely suburban teenager, ostracized by her classmates for being “weird”. Her mother (Piper Laurie) is a devout Christian who spreads the word of god amongst the neighbors.

Carrie has a special ability to move things, usually during anger- this is called telekinesis.

After a humiliating incident in the girl’s locker room when Carrie begins menstruating, one of the nicer girls in the class, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) feels sorry for Carrie and convinces her boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie to the prom.

When others in the class take revenge upon Carrie with a sick joke, things take a horrific turn.

Betty Buckley as the empathetic gym teacher, Miss Collins, and John Travolta and Nancy Allen, as dastardly Billy and Chris, also star and are perfectly cast.

The direction in the film is second to none. De Palma adds interesting camera work throughout the film.

During a tender, lovely prom dance between Carrie and Tommy, the camera circles the pair repeatedly, giving a spellbinding, but not dizzying quality.

The use of slow-motion in the important “pig blood” scene is immeasurably effective.

The seemingly eternal time it takes for the blood spilling to occur, and the camera (in slow motion) goes from Sue to Miss Collins to Chris to the bucket of blood is fantastic.

The list of inspired and intense scenes goes on and on- from the climactic scene between Carrie and Mrs. White to the “jump out of your seat” final scene.

The acting is also worthy of high praise. Spacek and Laurie deservedly received Oscar nominations for their work. Spacek elicits so much rooting value into her role with a shred of psychosis bubbling just beneath the surface.

Carrie wants to fit in and have a happy life so the audience is immersed in her corner and celebrates her short-lived happiness with Tommy at the prom. Spacek is just perfectly cast.

Laurie on the other hand exudes crazy in every sense, but we do feel pangs of sympathy for her. We largely believe she cares for her daughter and wants to protect her from the dangerous world.

Carrie (1976) is a masterpiece that continues to hold up well and influence generations who can relate to school bullying,  taunting, and the desire to see the nasty popular kids get their just desserts.

More than a great horror film, it is a revered classic with a dreamy, moody vibe.

One of my all-time favorites.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Sissy Spacek, Best Supporting Actress-Piper Laurie

Family Plot-1976

Family Plot-1976

Director Alfred Hitchcock

Starring Bruce Dern, Karen Black

Scott’s Review #99


Reviewed July 9, 2014

Grade: B

Family Plot is sadly Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, made in 1976.

It is certainly not one of his greats, but not bad either, and a fitting way for a viewer to conclude his career.

The film is a jewel caper and has a vastly different feel from many of his other, earlier films. It has a slick quality to it and is reminiscent of a 1970s television movie, which is not a knock.

It simply feels more television-like than film, which likely could be because the film stars notable television stars, William Devane and Katherine Helman.

It also features some big film stars of the time- Karen Black, Bruce Dern, and Barbara Harris.

The film is a departure from other Hitchcock films in that it is a macabre comedy. It is a tongue-in-cheek story of a fake psychic (Harris) and her boyfriend (Dern) who become involved in a search for a missing heir, a jewel heist, and a murder.

All of the characters intersect as the film moves along and it contains some nice Hitchcock elements- the speeding car with no brakes down a hilly road is pure Hitchcock.

The film, for me, has a slightly melancholy feel as sadly, it is the great Hitchcock’s final farewell.