Category Archives: 1974 Films



Director Ken Russell

Starring Robert Powell, Georgina Hale

Scott’s Review #1,404

Reviewed October 15, 2023

Grade: A

Anyone brave and open-minded enough to expose themselves to a Ken Russell film is in for an experience in great cinema. The British director frequently fuses music, odd visual sequences, and vivid colors into his art.

There is a specific mood one must be in to flourish in the moment and the dream-like perplexities of a film of this ilk but the result will be an appreciation for creativity in filmmaking.

My personal favorite Russell film, and I’m still getting my feet wet in all things Russell, is Women in Love (1970) followed by The Devils (1971), a journey into madness.

Hardly straight-laced, Mahler (1974) conceptualizes the music of the famous Austro-Bohemian composer and delves into the life and times of the man.

Gustav Mahler (Robert Powell) is returning to his home in Vienna, Austria following a stint conducting at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Traveling via train with his wife, Alma (Georgina Hale) he reflects on pivotal moments in his life.

Mahler dwells on memories of his overbearing father, of his once powerful but now failing relationship with Alma, and of the anti-Semitism that forced him to convert to Catholicism.

A garish sequence also reveals the death of his child.

A side story on the train features Alma’s lover, Max (Richard Morant), also on the train, urging her to leave Mahler and get off with him a couple of stops before Vienna.

Russell shifts time quite often so that at first it’s tough to figure out what is happening and more specifically if events are in the past or the future.

But once acclimated it’s easy to reflect on the stages of life and the various players. Better still is to ruminate about the happenings after the credits have rolled.

The best films require some ponderance after they end rather than simply forgetting them fifteen minutes later and Mahler is one of those films.

Knowing Russell, (has anyone seen The Devils?), he sometimes incorporates religion into his work. Mahler, a Jew, is forced to relegate his religion to get his work showcased. So, there is religious conflict and debate.

Mahler’s conversion to Catholicism is expressed by a wacky fantasy sequence in which he undergoes a baptism of fire and blood on a mountaintop, presided over by Cosima Wagner (second wife of the composer, Wagner).

The character wears horrid black lipstick and other odd attire like a Prussian helmet and a bathing suit with a cross on the front and a swastika on the rear.

The sequence is one of the best and technically brilliant with fire, rocks, and mountains on display. It’s also choreographed amazingly well and features unique musical compositions.

The style of Mahler (the film) is visual and artistic but also a chance for classical music fans to appreciate the compositions. Also, for novice fans eager to be introduced to quality music the film is equally as important.

I love my rock n roll like any other red-blooded American but the chance to soak in classical pieces from Mahler and Wagner is a pure treat in cultural goodness.

British actor Robert Powell is cast exceptionally well bearing a stark resemblance to the real Mahler. Oftentimes morose and sullen he is a tortured artist. But the expressions in his work like the song cycle Songs on the Death of Children reveal his complexities.

Powell is successful at exposing the audience to the emotional nuances that often pair with great artists.

Georgina Hale as Alma is just as good. Staunchly supporting her husband but yearning for her slice of the happiness pie she is also conflicted.

Mahler (1974) is a film about filmmaking and art appreciation. Thanks to Russell’s vision he challenges the conventional viewer with a unique journey through the weird and wild but more importantly, the chance to revel in something of brilliance.

The Four Musketeers-1974

The Four Musketeers-1974

Director Richard Lester

Starring Oliver Reed, Michael York, Faye Dunaway

Scott’s Review #1,379

Reviewed July 17, 2023

Grade: B

The Four Musketeers (1974) is a sequel to the film The Three Musketeers made a mere year earlier. It takes the second half of the famous novel by French author Alexandre Dumas with the original film covering the first half.

A recommendation is to watch the sequel directly after the original so there is less struggle to figure out what is going on. I did not do that so connecting the plot points was a struggle.

A further negative is the omission of any English subtitles making hearing or ascertaining the events of the film difficult. British accents are tough.

King Louis XIII’s (Jean-Pierre Cassel) four swashbuckling heroes engage in chivalrous and daring adventures when Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston) and his evil accomplice Milady de Winter (Faye Dunaway), kidnap the queen’s dressmaker, Constance (Raquel Welch).

The heroes are D’Artagnan (Michael York), Athos (Oliver Reed), Porthos (Frank Finlay), and Aramis (Richard Chamberlain).

It’s a British swashbuckler film so the adventures are prevalent and the physical comedy is fast and furious. It’s like a sitcom at times with over-the-top and outlandish fight sequences and one-liners.

The frequent low-cut tops on the female characters are intended to channel the male viewer’s thirteen-year-old boy.

The film gets darker than I anticipated in the final act which is to its credit with two deaths. This surprised me in a good way because so much of The Four Musketeers is light-hearted.

The death by the beheading of a major character is well-done. The heroes watch an executioner perform his duties to the fiendish character from across a lake. The decapitation is not exactly shown but it’s done almost in a tremendously effective silhouette and from a distance.

The costumes and attention to detail from a historic perspective are superior elements of the film. One can imagine being in the French countryside during the Anglo-French War in the 1600s. The sets and lighting are bright so the result is colorful and picturesque style.

The cast is made up of several A-list Hollywood stars of the time and each adequately does their share to light up the screen. My favorites are Dunaway as the villainess and Reed as a ‘good guy’, a refreshing change for the actor who usually appears as the heavy.

Reed and Dunaways share some scenes mostly in flashbacks that made me want to see more of their romance but this is not to be. Athos was unaware that Milady de Winter was a criminal which left a permanent branding mark.

Still, what little I got featured tremendous chemistry between the pair and I would have liked to have seen more.

Where the film loses me a bit is with the silliness which follows the same formula that made The Three Musketeers a success. Feeling redundant were the endless sword fight scenes and tongue-in-cheek winking.

The film tries hard to be a comedy but adds in darker moments too so it leaves an unbalanced quality.

Some actors get short shrift. Christopher Lee as Count De Rouchfort is a secondary villain and has little to do except prance around in a wig, uniform, and eye patch. His character is no Dracula and does not feel dangerous.

The Four Musketeers (1974) is good entertainment from a solidly professional cast. Hardly a masterpiece it’s a bang ’em up comedy adventure with a few moments of death and destruction.

Young Frankenstein-1974

Young Frankenstein-1974

Director Mel Brooks

Starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr

Scott’s Review #1,347

Reviewed February 27, 2023

Grade: A

Young Frankenstein (1974) is one of the funniest, most authentic examples of slapstick comedy done right. The physical timing, facial expressions, and dialogue delivery are sheer perfection from the well-known cast.

Many of whom are stars of the comedy genre.

The fact that director Mel Brooks took a classic horror film as distinguished as Frankenstein (1931), and made a cross-genre sequel, is pure brilliance.

Even better is the incorporation of black-and-white filmmaking resembling the 1930s masterpiece so the setting feels similar. This is aided by the recreation of the original set designer Kenneth Strickfaden’s lab equipment from the 1931 film. 

Brooks co-wrote the screenplay with star Gene Wilder, a comic legend, and the writing is brilliant crackling with wit and energy.

The 1970s film watched decades later has lost none of its original appeal holding up astoundingly well after most of the cast and director have left this world. It can be watched over the Halloween season for the proper atmosphere or at any time.

Ideally, recommended is to watch Frankenstein either before or after seeing Young Frankenstein for ideal pleasure.

Respected medical lecturer Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Wilder) learns, much to his chagrin, that he has inherited his infamous grandfather’s estate in Transylvania, Romania.

The original Frankenstein’s reputation is so tarnished that Frederick wants nothing to do with the name even going so far as changing the pronunciation of his surname to “Fronkensteen”.

Begrudgingly arriving at the castle, Dr. Frankenstein soon begins to recreate his grandfather’s experiments with the help of servants Igor (Marty Feldman), Inga (Teri Garr), and the rigid Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman).

After he creates his monster (Peter Boyle), a new set of complications ensue with the arrival of the doctor’s fiancée, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn), and the unleashing of the frightening beast on the small town.

Comedy and horror are worlds apart but Brooks and Wilder pay respect and tribute to the classic horror film by not mocking it but instead embracing it and enhancing the story with Young Frankenstein.

You could say it’s a sequel in addition to a spoof made over forty years later.

The characters are the best part and each one is enveloped by its actor in fine form. Led by Wilder as the mad scientist, bug-eyed Igor (pronounced ‘Eyegor’ naturally) explained to be the grandson of Igor in Frankenstein, is a personal favorite of mine followed by Garr as the secret romantic interest for Wilder.

My favorite scenes are when Igor reveals that he took the wrong brain for Frankenstein’s experiment belonging to ‘Abby Normal’ instead of ‘Abnormal’ as the label read.

Inga and Frederick have instant chemistry leaving Kahn’s Elizabeth in the dust as far as a romantic triangle. Hilarity between the pair occurs in the final sequence when, after a lobotomy, she is delighted to realize that Frederick has received the monster’s “enormous Schwanzstucker”.

This is not to diminish Boyle, Leachman, or Kahn who each do their part to make Young Frankenstein an ensemble. Apt viewers will spot Gene Hackman in the role of Harold, the blind man.

As an aside, Brooks brilliantly pays tribute to Bride of Frankenstein (1934) by giving Elizabeth the same hairstyle.

The double entendre is fast and furious from knockers to the male anatomy.

The only scene that didn’t wow me was the sequence where Frankenstein and his creation perform “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. The monster singing and dancing was too amateurish for me but for some, it’s a favorite scene.

A parody that works on nearly every level and is the best of all the Brooks films (even barely usurping my forever fondness for 1977’s High Anxiety), Young Frankenstein (1974) is a treasure.

Silly, devoted, and creative, it revives a classic in only the best of ways and is filmmaking 101 in how to create a proper spoof.

Oscar Nominations:  Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound

Free to Be…You and Me-1974

Free to Be…You and Me-1974

Director Bill Davis

Starring Marlo Thomas, Alan Alda, Harry Belafonte

Scott’s Review #1,262

Reviewed June 3, 2022

Grade: A

I don’t typically review television specials or television series since, hence the title, my website isn’t about that.

But, because of the sheer relevance and groundbreaking nature of Free to Be…You and Me (1974) and that it is more of a ‘project’ than merely a television special I felt compelled to provide its deserved recognition and praise.

A record album and illustrated book first released in November 1972 featuring songs and stories sung or told by celebrities of the day also makes it meatier than a one-and-done hour-long slot on a random Monday night.

The running time is a mere forty-five minutes in length but a lot happens during this time and leaves any viewer with an open mind thinking about how everyone should see it.

To summarize, the emotions the experience elicits supersedes the limited amount of screen time.

The project was conceived, created, and executive-produced by actress Marlo Thomas who also serves as host. What a great human being she proves she is to bring something so valuable to the small screen.

The result is something so ahead of its time that the message feels powerful watching it for the first time nearly fifty years later in 2022.

You can’t say that about most television.

The basic concept is to celebrate and encourage gender neutrality, saluting values such as individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one’s identity. Strong messages.

These ideals began to emerge throughout the late 1960s when the sexual revolution transpired.

A major theme is that anyone regardless of being a boy or a girl can achieve anything and be whatever they want to be.

I adore early on when a scene from a hospital emerges, infant depictions of Thomas and Mel Brooks debating their genders. They say their goodbyes as they leave the hospital but the moment is long remembered.

Later, Thomas and Alan Alda sing about a boy named William who wants a doll. And why shouldn’t he? Just as Sally, Jennifer, or Mary should be allowed to play with a dump truck should they feel like it.

Surely, the United States, the project’s main region, has slowly become more progressive in the subsequent decades. A sad reminder is that some people still have a problem with gender neutrality or even gender equality.

We’re not out of the woods yet, folks.

But those people are to be dismissed and not embraced.

Guest performers include Alda, Cicely Tyson, Tom Smothers, and Harry Belafonte, while Roberta Flack, Michael Jackson, Rita Coolidge, and Kris Kristofferson help supply the tunes.

A shockingly young Jackson also appears in a skit.

The production features uplifting sketches and songs that urge young and old to welcome diversity and embrace individualism.

I ruminated throughout my viewing how similar in many ways it is to PBS’s Mister Rogers Neighborhood, using puppets to appeal to youngsters and teach treasured messages. The kindness of the characters provides protection and warmth, teaching worth and value.

Free to Be…You and Me (1974) deservedly became an Emmy-winning TV special that taught many children (and adults) how to celebrate and respect diversity.

I hope that someone somewhere gives Free to Be…You and Me a boost and it become shown in schools all across the world.

It’s a timeless masterpiece.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore-1974

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore-1974

Director Martin Scorsese

Starring Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson, Diane Ladd

Scott’s Review #1,075

Reviewed October 27, 2020

Grade: A-

Deserving of the Best Actress statuette she won for her role, Ellen Burstyn carries the film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) from start to finish with drama and comedy.

I can’t watch any performance of Burstyn’s without smarting at how she lost the same award years later after her frighteningly good performance in Requiem for a Dream released in 2000.

She was defeated by Julia Roberts, who gave an adequate though unexceptional performance in Erin Brockovich (2000).

But, I digress.

A character study Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, tells the powerful story of a woman (Burstyn) forced to begin a new life and forge her path after her husband is killed in a car accident.

She is thirty-five years old and wary of middle age approaching as she pursues a singing career. She is joined by her young son, Tommy (Alfred Lutter), and faces fear and loneliness as the pair embarks on a journey throughout the southwestern United States.

She dates, fights, and does a soul search, finally landing a job as a waitress at a roadside diner.

On paper, this film could have been reduced to television movie status as the premise sounds kind of corny and sentimental.

Shocking to me is that Martin Scorsese directed it. Best known for male-driven mobster pictures like Goodfellas (1993), Gangs of New York (2002), and The Irishman (2019), an introspective female journey film doesn’t seem like his thing.

A fun fact is that he agreed to direct at Burstyn’s urging as she wouldn’t have starred in it otherwise. The actress surmised that the script needed more darkness and grit, which it contains without losing its heart.

A strange yet lovely photographed scene kicks off the picture and seems to be an homage to The Wizard of Oz (1939). With a dusty, golden backdrop, a young Alice looks like Dorothy with an idyllic life.

Suddenly, Alice’s mother bellows her to come home for dinner. She responds with salty language. The scene feels out of place based on the rest of the film but looks good.

Burstyn made me care about Alice from the first scene containing adult Alice. Alice is a good person. She is hard-working and strives to please her husband, hoping he will enjoy the delicious dinner she has prepared for him. He barely grunts at the meal and has a tumultuous relationship with Tommy, who Alice spoils.

This plot point returns later in the film.

Alice is not a doormat, however, as she provides humor and comic relief during tense moments. She also shares a warm friendship with her neighbor. We do not know what the husband’s demons are (depression?).

He and Alice share an emotional moment in bed one night before he dies the next day.

With her marriage behind her and limited financial means, Alice and Tommy take to the road. I adore the relationship between the two. Tommy is not always easy to parent, exhausting his mother with typical young adult nonsense.

It’s easy to forget that he has lost his father and has no direction. Their relationship is complicated but there is much love.

The juiciness comes when Alice finally lands a singing gig at a seedy lounge bar and meets the maniacal Ben, played flawlessly by Harvey Keitel.

At first, he is charming and attentive, wooing her like she’s never been wooed before. When she learns he is married he turns psycho and she is forced to leave town.

The meat of the film comes when Alice begins working at the diner and meets her new friend, Flo (Diane Ladd), and her new love David (Kris Kristofferson). After some trials and tribulations, Alice realizes her life is not so bad.

As much as there are dramatic elements Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is not soap opera or overwrought. The scenes and situations bristle with energy and authenticity and this is thanks to the great acting and fluid direction.

My favorite scenes occur at the diner. With greasy, blue plate specials and dishes piled with ham, eggs, and hash browns, the working-class extras are perfectly positioned around the diner.

In the background, they lend a feeling of rush, chaos, and family traditions. The diner scenes are where Alice bonds the most with Flo and David and are delicious.

Turned into a popular television sitcom in the late 1970s named Alice, a lighter, wholesome production, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) is a progressive story about a woman on her own and getting it done, mustering courage no matter what life throws at her.

It’s an inspiring story for both women and men.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Actress-Ellen Burstyn (won), Best Supporting Actress-Diane Ladd, Best Original Screenplay

Thieves Like Us-1974

Thieves Like Us-1974

Director Robert Altman

Starring Keith Carradine, Shelley Duvall

Scott’s Review #1,071

Reviewed October 16, 2020

Grade: A

The first time I saw Thieves Like Us (1974) I was not blown away. I have forgotten what my original gripe was, but my lackluster star rating on Netflix years ago is confirmation of such.

All is now forgiven and like a fine wine, this film gets better and better with each viewing.

It’s a gangster film, but a heart-wrenching story containing one of the sweetest romances in cinema history.

Based on the novel of the same name by Edward Anderson, director Robert Altman, famous for allowing his actors to ad-lib their lines to their heart’s content and peppering his films with overlapping, “real-life” dialogue, limits this technique this time around.

His stars, Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall, regular fixtures in his films, are the main attraction, but supporting players like Louise Fletcher, Bert Remsen, and John Schuck give tremendous performances.

Set in the 1930s United States, Deep South Mississippi, the time-period and location are key elements to the success of the film.

Having never set foot in this geographical area, I nonetheless found myself escaping there and ruminating about what it would have been like to live there in the Great Depression era.

The many outdoor sequences with trees, forests, country roads, and home-cooked meals provide a luminous atmosphere and texture.

Small-town living never felt so good and cozy.

Wisely, Altman steers clear of any racial overtones or dialogue within the film. The film is not about that.

There appear many black characters mostly in the background, townspeople scenes, or as prisoners which add flavor. But they are represented as living among other folks without any aggression or stereotypes. They simply are and it feels like the South.

Altman crafts an experience of understated, good storytelling, proving a quality film can be quiet and proud, not needing explosive bells and whistles to prove showy. The dialogue crackles on its own and is smart.

The plot is compelling. Bowie (Carradine) is an escaped convict who embarks on a crime spree with fellow former prisoners Chicamaw (John Schuck) and T-Dub (Bert Remsen). While in hiding between bank robberies, Bowie meets a young woman named Keechie (Duvall), and the two quickly fall in love.

A life of crime doesn’t sit well with Keechie, however, so she and Bowie try to settle down, but the law is determined to bring him to justice.

The fun is in watching romance blossom between Bowie and Keechie. Despite Bowie being a criminal, his character contains sweetness and purity that match like a glove with the whimsical truth and simplicity of Keechie.

Throughout the length of the film, I compared the characters to the legendary icons, Bonnie and Clyde, from the self-titled cinema masterpiece.

They are similar but different. The pair sit quietly on the front porch talking about life and the future, optimistically planning their lives together unaware of what fate has in store for them. Their innocence and their goofy humor made me fall in love with them.

The relationship between the three men is apt. They have each other’s backs and are loyal to a fault. The men are convicts and cause death and injury, but there is a humanity that Altman gives to each character.

We do not think of them as derelicts.

When Bowie poses as a sheriff to break Chickamaw from prison, we root for the escape and not for the warden. Bowie kills the warden, shocking Chickamaw. Even with dispute comes caring between the men.

It does take patience to get into this film, probably I did not give the film its due on my first watch. Once the film ended I was left with a feeling of having experienced something of value and an artistic cinematic visionary story.

The homespun characters eating a feast of meat and southern biscuits and discussing the day’s events are rich and atmospheric.

Carradine and Duvall would reunite a year later in another Altman masterpiece, Nashville (1975) playing vastly different characters, both unlikable, so a recommendation is to watch both films back to back to appreciate the dizzying morphed characterization.

Thieves Like Us (1974) is no mere opening act for Nashville but of a different ilk.

The film is a treasure.

Airport 1975-1974

Airport 1975-1974

Director Jack Smight

Starring Charlton Heston, Karen Black, George Kennedy

Scott’s Review #1,060

Reviewed September 8, 2020

Grade: B+

Possessing all the disaster film genre schmaltz, proper trimmings, and then some, Airport 1975 (1974) is good, hammy entertainment that gleefully satisfies, though artistic types will be embarrassed to admit how much they like it.

In parallel with The Towering Inferno (1974) and Earthquake (1974), the three were some of the highest-grossing films of the year and it is little wonder why. The offering has enough adventure and peril to satisfy the entire family.

I watched this film practically in tandem with Airport (1970) and it feels a letdown by comparison, but that hardly matters. Both are very good.

With juicy anticipation, the filmmakers paid a ton of cash to secure a bevy of Hollywood stars of yesteryear assuring they could rake in the box office receipts.

Most are past their prime but still marketable, what a treat to see legendary silent film star Gloria Swanson playing herself as a passenger.

The unequivocal star and hero of the film is Charlton Heston, as he also was in Earthquake. Karen Black, Myrna Loy, Linda Blair, Susan Clark, Nancy Olson, and George Kennedy (reprising his role from the first Airport) round out the stellar cast.

Worth its price of admission is watching the opening credits to see who is in the cast.

Unlike Airport, which wisely spent much of its time inside the actual airport setting up the events and stories, Airport 1975 takes flight right away and crafts its trials and tribulations within the aisles and cockpit of the plane.

We learn right off the bat that the main romantic couple is Heston and Black. Captain Alan Murdock (Heston) apparently cannot commit to Chief Stewardess Nancy Pryor (Black) and they plan to meet up in Los Angeles to discuss the drama further.

We know they will have more to do with each other as her flight takes off for La La Land.

Quickly, a small plane flown by businessman Scott Freeman (Dana Andrews) is diverted to Salt Lake City airport and he suffers a massive heart attack while descending.

His plane naturally crashes into the cockpit of the enormous Boeing 747 killing two pilots and blinding the other.

With nobody able to fly the plane, Nancy must figure out how to divert disaster while cascading over mountains and contending with a fuel leak. Murdock and crew try to land the plane remotely or get somebody up there to save the day.

Predictably, Murdock is that man.

If Airport 1975 weren’t so damned fun it would be offensive since it’s riddled with gender stereotypes. Screenwriter, Don Ingalls, composes a project so fraught with machismo and masculinity, that the female characters have little chance to do much of anything without being saved by a man.

Let’s cite a couple of examples. Nancy is left alone in the open cockpit to navigate the plane.

Worthy of mention is that her hair remains perfect throughout.

Anyway, Murdock must explain to her how to check various controls which he does as if she were a five-year-old learning the alphabet, referring to a picture of the “little airplane” and calling her “dear”.

She rattles off a puzzled “what?” before figuring out where or what the “little airplane” is.

Secondary Stewardess Bette (Christopher Norris) is boy crazy, asking Nancy if the flight crew is “sexy” before making googly eyes at Latin pilot, Julio (Erik Estrada). He is married but that doesn’t seem to bother either of them.

They flirt while he orders her to bring him a cup of coffee. The male characters telling the female characters to get them drinks is a common theme in Airport 1975.

Naturally, Murdock eventually makes it on board to take over the controls and land the plane.

We imagine Nancy’s character thinking, “Good Heavens, thank goodness a man arrived just in the nick of time to save all of us!”. She promptly is sent to get Murdock a drink and fluff pillows.

But these are gripes that I can look past with the knowledge that if this film were made in 2020 Nancy would either land the plane or Murdock would be a female character and Nancy a male character.

Imagine that!

The real threats are the peril and drama associated with the events on the flight.

A sick kid (Linda Blair) must reach land quickly so that she can be provided medical assistance while a crack in the airplane ceiling could burst at any moment killing everyone on board.

For popcorn-fueled entertainment sure to please any viewer Airport 1975 (1974) is a perfect late-afternoon, rainy day suggestion.

Advisable is to not look too deeply into the stereotypes and contrived setups or this will ruin the fun. Instead, hop aboard and enjoy the bumpy flight from the comfy cushions of your living room with the assurance that you will land safe and sound.

A Woman Under the Influence-1974

A Woman Under the Influence-1974

Director John Cassavetes

Starring Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk

Scott’s Review #1,051

Reviewed August 11, 2020

Grade: A

I champion films that are not necessarily easy to digest but are well worth the struggle if the result is either a fantastic pay-off or the afterglow of watching something of worth or substance.

A Woman Under the Influence (1974) is a grueling watch for the ferocious intensity alone that Gena Rowlands infuses into her emotionally challenged title character.

Rowlands and director/writer/husband John Cassavetes changed the face of independent film forever with this project.

Critical film darling and fantastic director Cassavetes specifically wrote the screenplay of A Woman Under the Influence for Rowlands who wanted to play the character but could not take the strain of playing her eight days a week on stage as originally envisioned.

Thus, the project was birthed using their own money to finance the making of it. Co-star Peter Falk also contributed financially.

Each served as a makeup artist, or gofer, or performed other non-actor or non-director tasks to achieve the results.

A real house was used to film in rather than on a studio set.

The film was rebuffed by distributors and Cassavetes begged to have it shown at college campuses where he would discuss the film afterward. It was the first time in the history of motion pictures that an independent film was distributed without the use of a nationwide system of sub-distributors.

This is the main reason that Cassavetes is heralded as an independent film god and has a category named after him at the annual Independent Spirit Film Awards.

Rowlands parts mountains to make this role her own and she is passionate about it.

Originally only seeing the legendary actress in one film, the gritty Gloria (1980), I kept a notion of her as the impatient, tough-as-nails, mobster girlfriend that she played in that excellent film (also directed by Cassavetes).

In A Woman Under the Influence, made six years before Gloria, she plays a much more vulnerable, to say nothing of unhinged, character. This is not to say that Mabel is crazy in a psychotic sort of way. She is loving and adores her husband, Nick (Falk), and kids Margaret and Angelo.

Rowlands puts her versatility on display.

In her desperate attempts to keep her family happy, she tries to put on a brave front as she dutifully cooks dinner, puts her kids to bed, and kisses her husband.

Inside though she is dying and unsure what is wrong with her. She knows she is unhappy and doesn’t know why. What she does know is that she is slowly going insane.

At the risk of making A Woman Under the Influence Rowland’s film as the title implies, it’s not. Falk does not merely serve as a supporting player to her story but blossoms with one of his own.

The story could have easily been told only from Mabel’s perspective, but we see such a range of emotions from Falk as his character tries desperately to keep it together.

This is great acting.

Nick thinks that inviting friends over to celebrate Mabel’s return home from the hospital is a good idea, and realizing it’s not, angrily sends them home. His emotions spiral as much as hers do but differently.

The best scenes are the most emotionally taxing for all.

When Mabel talks gibberish at a speed of a mile a minute, Nick tries to be patient but soon explodes with anger, sympathetic to his wife but also exhausted beyond belief. When Mabel and Nick spar fireworks explode.

In pure Cassavetes’s genius, there lies no solution to Mabel’s woes and we wonder what will happen to her. Will she eventually be institutionalized for life? Will she take her own life or someone else’s life?

The vagueness is its beauty.

A Woman Under the Influence (1974) is one of the most realistic films ever made to focus on mental illness difficultly and truthfully.

To add boldness to the tough subject matter, especially given the time-period made when we now know more about the disease, Cassavetes, and Rowlands add a feminist quality to the film while also showcasing the male point of view.

1970’s cinema oozed with creativity, richness, and experimentation. True artists emerged, who have created an important legacy in small-budgeted films forever.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-John Cassavetes, Best Actress-Gena Rowlands

Bread and Chocolate-1974

Bread and Chocolate-1974

Director Franco Brusati

Starring Nino Manfredi

Scott’s Review #996

Reviewed March 6, 2020

Grade: B

Bread and Chocolate (1974), known as Pane e cioccolata in Italian is a mixed dramatic and comedic offering by the director, Franco Brusati, a well-known Italian screenwriter and director.

The film is charming and tells of one man’s trials and tribulations trying to make it as a migrant worker in a foreign country- in this case neighboring Switzerland. He is conflicted by the opportunities presented and the catastrophic way his life is screwed up at every turn.

The film is meaningful and poignant but sometimes has no clear path. A commonality is the representation of differing cultures.

Nino (Nino Manfredi) is a hard-working Sicilian man who heads for Switzerland in search of a better life- the time is the 1960s or the 1970s when this was a common occurrence. Despite his best efforts to fit in with his neighbors, he never quite seems to make it, haplessly going from one situation to the next.

He befriends and is supported for a time by a Greek woman named Elena, who is a refugee and harbors secrets. He forages a career as a waiter and befriends a busboy. As his luck dwindles, he is reduced to finding shelter with a group of Neapolitans living in a chicken coop, with the same chickens they tend to to survive.

With bizarre gusto they frequently emulate the chickens, strangely parading around their quarters like animals.

The main character of Nino reminds me of the character that Roberto Benigni played in the 1997 gem, Life is Beautiful. In that film, Guido tries to shelter his son from the horrors of war. In Bread and Chocolate, Nino has a zest for life using humor to survive and get through daily situations, slowly realizing his dire straits.

Both characters are scrappy and daring; Nino humorously urinating on a tree or awkwardly finding a dead body in the woods.

The theme of the film is loaded with conflict over staying in Switzerland to find a better life or returning in shame to his homeland of Italy, assumed a failure. Nino constantly wrestles with this quandary and discusses this point with his family photos in his bedroom.

In two instances he nearly gets on a train headed back to Italy but changes his mind. The film does not do a great job explaining or showing what is so awful back in Italy.

Bread and Chocolate is difficult to categorize because it is neither a straight-ahead comedy nor pure drama. As the film progresses it loses some situational comedy moments in favor of exhibiting melancholia and sadness.

I am not sure this is a great decision as we wonder many times if we should laugh with Nino or feel bad for him. Perhaps both?

The film scores big when it focuses on comedy as evidenced by several laugh-out-loud restaurant scenes. Nino, clearly not knowing what he is doing, struggles to properly peel an orange to serve a guest. He emulates another waiter with hilarious results.

Later he offends a snobbish, sophisticated woman after she blames him for causing her to fall to the floor.

The strangest scene occurs when the chicken people spy on four gorgeous Swiss siblings bathing in a nearby river. Gorgeous and tranquil, they are the definition of stunning and lush.

Charmed by the idyllic vision of the group, Nino decides to dye his hair and pass himself off as a local. The images of the cackling and dirty Italian people, with their snickering and drooling set against the peaceful family, are both beautiful and odd.

The scene could almost be featured in an Ingmar Bergman art film.

Bread and Chocolate (1974) is a film about a man’s journey that can be classified as an adventure, drama, art film, or comedy, and sometimes crosses genres too much. The comedic antics draw rave reviews, but the film slips a bit when it goes into the dramatic territory and becomes middling and too preachy.

Actor Nino Manfredi breathes all the life he can into a film that is appealing, but not quite marvelous.

Murder on the Orient Express-1974

Murder on the Orient Express-1974

Director Sidney Lumet

Starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman

Scott’s Review #928

Reviewed August 7, 2019

Grade: A-

Based on the 1934 novel of the same name written by famous author Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express (1974) brings the story to the big screen with a robust and eccentric cast of characters all drizzling with suspicion.

The classic whodunit of all whodunits, the film adds a Hollywood flair with rich costumes and an authentic feel to a budget-blasting extravaganza that keeps the audience guessing as to who the killer or killers may be.

The film was recognized with a slew of Oscar nominations that year.

The hero of the film is Hercules Poirot (Albert Finney), a well-respected yet bumbling Belgian detective, who is solicited to solve the mysterious death of a business tycoon aboard the famous and luxurious Orient Express train.

On his way to the train’s destination, he encounters such delicious characters as the glamorous Mrs. Hubbard (Lauren Bacall), the nervous Greta Ohlsson (Ingrid Bergman), and his friend Bianchi (Martin Balsam), the director of the company who owns the enormous vessel.

Many other characters are introduced to the layered story.

As the complicated plot is unraveled, most of the characters have something to hide or a connection to another character or characters.

The fun for the viewer is to live vicariously through Poirot and await the big final reveal after the film that, unless already viewed the film or read the novel, one will not see coming.

With a film of this type, a detective thriller, the audience can be assured of a resolution, like a big murder mystery dinner theater production brought to the big screen.

Formulaic, the film never drags nor feels dull.

Amid the first few minutes of Murder on the Orient Express, the intrigue is unleashed at full-throttle speed leaving one bedazzled and hooked.

The sequence is brilliantly done and thrusts the audience into a compelling back story of plot and the wonderment of what these events have to do with a train pulling out of the Orient.

Quickly edited film clippings of a news story explain the mysterious Long Island, New York abduction and murder of the infant daughter of a famed pilot.

It is suggested that the Orient Express trip embarks from Istanbul, Turkey, and is destined for London. This means that several countries will be included in the trek, creating possibilities for both geographical accompaniments and new cultural experiences which director Sidney Lumet offers generous amounts of.

Moments following the murder, the train has the unfortunate fate of colliding with an avalanche, leaving the passengers in double peril, with a killer on the loose and cabin fever to contend with.

To the compelled viewer this is snug comfort as the atmospheric locales are gorgeous and the thought of a dozen strangers trapped together with so much to hide brings the story to a frenzy.

Who did what to the murder victim is slowly revealed as several red herrings (or are they?) are revealed. Who is the mysterious woman strutting down the corridor shortly before the murder, spotted by Poirot? Is she a staged pawn or merely an innocent victim? Could she be the murderer?

The wonderful part of Murder on the Orient Express is the number of entangled possibilities.

The conclusion of the film turns the thriller into a moralistic story, to its credit. The fact that the murder victim was hateful and diabolical is a key part of the story and makes the viewer wonder if the killer or killers are justified in their actions.

Does the fact that Ratchett was stabbed a dozen times with varying degrees of severity play into the motivation?

A very compelling, and unrecognizable Finney does a fantastic job of carrying the film among such a troupe of good actors.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974) sets out to entertain and succeeds on every level, bringing the book to the silver screen with a fresh interpretation that still honors the intent that Christie had.

Stylistic and thought-provoking, the film has gorgeous costumes, a good story, and fine acting. The knowledge of who the killer is does little to take away any enjoyment that a repeated viewing will provide.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Actor-Albert Finney, Best Supporting Actress-Ingrid Bergman (won), Best Screenplay Adapted from Other Material, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography



Director Mark Robson

Starring Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner

Scott’s Review #407


Reviewed June 2, 2016

Grade: B+

One of the several disaster films to populate film screens in the early to mid-1970s, Earthquake is one of the “main four” blockbusters (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and Airport being the others), that still resonate with viewers in modern times and are nostalgic to watch.

One might argue that the aforementioned few largely influenced Earthquake since it was the last of the group to be filmed.

Certainly, the influence is apparent.

Earthquake is a classic, traditional, disaster film containing many stock characters (or types) and is an ensemble piece- as disaster films always are- frequently containing stars of yesteryear attempting exposure in the modern cinema.

The gender roles in Earthquake are quite mainstream for the day as the females are all clearly  “damsels in distress” types and the men are portrayed as the heroes.

The action begins as we witness a Los Angeles-based middle-aged couple (the central couple if you will) engaging in a dispute.

Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner play Stewart and Remy Graff, an affluent couple, a former football star, she a boozy socialite. Her father is the wealthy Sam Royce, played by Lorne Greene. Stewart is carrying on an affair with a young actress, Denise Marshall, creating a soap opera-style romantic triangle, adding drama to the film.

We meet other characters who round out the character’s stories- LAPD Sgt. Slade (George Kennedy) shares a flirtation with Rosa (Victoria Principal), while drunkard Walter Matthau and evil kineval character Richard Roundtree provide comic relief.

These stories are merely filler until the inevitable earthquake arrives to ‘shake’ things up.

The earthquake is the main character in the film just like the tidal wave, the fire, and the airline peril are in the other same genre films.

The character’s trivial relationships soon take a back seat to the action as the earthquake shatters the city in subsequent onsets and aftershocks, destroying buildings and resulting in many deaths.

The very lengthy main earthquake sequence is second to none and hovers around the twenty-minute mark. We see many characters in peril. The scene goes on and on but is hardly redundant.

The scene is masterful and well done. The effects, cinematography, and visuals alone hold up well today and must have been breathtaking circa 1974.

In one particularly thrilling scene, a group of office workers on the thirtieth floor of a skyscraper desperately try to scramble to the elevator as the building shakes and shimmies. One businessman shoves a secretary out of the way and selfishly immerses himself in the crowded elevator as others desperately pound on the elevator door to escape.

Things do not end well for the folks on the elevator as bolts loosen and the car crashes to the ground. An animated blood splat fills the screen in a lighthearted, comical way.

The film wisely does not take itself too seriously.

As fantastic as the destruction sequence is, Earthquake is not a film without a few flaws, mostly from a character standpoint.

Unbelievable is Heston playing Greene’s son-in-law and Gardner are assumed to be young enough to be his daughter- they appear to be around the same age.

A strange character, Jody, a store clerk, suddenly dresses as a soldier, wearing a wig, following the destruction and, assumed to be gay by thugs, is teased, which prompts him to shoot them with a machine gun. He subsequently becomes obsessed with and nearly rapes Rosa.

The sub-plot seems uneven and very unnecessary.

With spectacular special effects, Earthquake is a must-see disaster film with a slightly downcast, hopeless tone. It does its job well- it entertains, thrills, and features an all-star cast of former Hollywood elite and a few rising stars.

A fun time will be had.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Sound (won), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

Daisy Miller-1974

Daisy Miller-1974

Director Peter Bogdanovich

Starring Cybill Shepard, Cloris Leachman 

Scott’s Review #383


Reviewed March 6, 2016

Grade: B

Daisy Miller is a largely forgotten 1974 film based on a Henry James novella of the same name, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring then-girlfriend Cybill Sheperd in the title role.

I admire the film in certain aspects, but ultimately rank the film as good, but not spectacular. I pondered the film afterward and had a feeling that something was missing from it.

The story, set in the late 1800s, tells of a wealthy upstate New York family, led by the naïve Daisy Miller (Sheperd), visiting Europe in the hopes of becoming more cultured and worldly, but instead, are largely met with defiance and snobbery from European sophisticates. Daisy attempts to find love with her numerous potential suitors.

The film is largely shot in Switzerland and Italy.

The romantic story between Daisy and upper-class Frederick Winterbourne is the focal point. Daisy, a chatterbox and flirtatious, captures Winterbourne’s fancy and he gradually woos her but is conflicted by social norms and her innocent involvement with other men, most notably dashing Italian Giovanelli.

This leads to conflict. I noticed some chemistry between Daisy and Winterbourne.

Bogdanovich, who only directed a handful of films, including the masterpiece The Last Picture Show (1971), uses several great actors in both films.

In addition to Sheperd, Cloris Leachman, and Eileen Brennan appear in supporting roles. Leachman as Daisy’s equally chatty and naïve mother, and Brennan as the vicious socialite Mrs. Parker.

Brennan, in particular, shines. Outstanding at playing snobs and unique character roles, this was right up Brennan’s alley and she almost steals the show.

I adored the cinematography and the costumes featured in the production and thought both were the film’s main strengths.

The clothing that the characters were dressed in is both gorgeous and believable for the period. The backdrop during the hotel garden scene is exquisite and picturesque as the lake, sky, and mountain are all in full view adding a unique viewing experience.

I also found the subject of cultural class distinctions quite interesting. The Millers are rich but uneducated and unlikable- they live in Schenectady and are considered far beneath the clever, intelligent figures of Europe.

They do not measure up and they lack the same breeding and class as many of the characters.

Adding to this is the fact that the Millers never really seemed all that interested in being in Europe, almost taking the opportunity for granted, so I was never completely captured by the Millers or found them particularly sympathetic as a group.

Given that she is the focus, I found the character of Daisy Miller a bit unlikable and this could be due to the casting of Sheperd. Daisy’s endless rants, largely about herself, teetered on annoying to say nothing of her irritant little brother.

Sure, Daisy is sweet and kindhearted, but there is something that did not compel me about her. She was a less charismatic, northern version of Scarlett O’Hara.

I kept wondering if other actresses might have brought more to the character and given her more muscle. Was this role a showcase for Sheperd because of her relationship with Bogdanovich?

The conclusion of the film surprised me and features a downcast ending that I did not expect given the sunny mood of the rest of the film, and this is to Bogdanovich’s credit.

He certainly did not make a mainstream film and I admire that.

Daisy Miller (1974) is a mixed bag for me. I give my admiration for some aspects, but the story and the casting could have used a bit of altering.

Oscar Nominations: Best Costume Design



Director Federico Fellini

Starring Bruno Zanin, Magali Noel

Top 100 Films #81

Scott’s Review #357


Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Federico Fellini’s Amarcord, the winner of the Best Foreign Language Oscar and Golden Globe in 1974, is a semi-autobiographical film based on the childhood of the famed director himself.

Set in the small Italian village of Borgo San Giuliano, the film features quite an array of weird and eccentric characters inhabiting the village.

The plot centers around young Titta, and his coming-of-age development as he blossoms into a young man- his sexual desires and fantasies are heavily explored in this zany film.

Since the time is the 1930s and Fascism, led by the tyrannical Mussolini, was rearing its ugly head, Amarcord is not all light-hearted fun and games, despite how it appears on the surface- there is a serious undertone to the entire film.

Still, the film lacks any sort of story that can be dissected very well, which both pleases and frustrates- the film is simply to be “experienced”. It can either leave your head spinning, scratching your head, or disliking the film.

That is not to say that I take issue or offense with Amarcord I adore the film, but it is not an easy watch. Scenes meander about in a dream-like fashion as we follow Titta through his sexual blossoming.

In one memorable scene, Titta has a titillating experience with a buxom older female who lives in the village. Some of the other characters we meet are giddy with peculiarities: a blind accordion player and a female nymphomaniac to name but a couple.

Titta and his family are featured heavily as they eat together, fight together, and live together. When one day the family treks to visit their Uncle Teo, who is confined to an insane asylum, they take him out for a day in the country, where he climbs a tree and refuses to come down.

A dwarf nun and two orderlies finally arrive and coax him down- he obediently returns to the asylum. It is a bizarre sequence, but one that sums up Amarcord perfectly.

Amarcord contains one wacky scene after another, but many of the scenes are not just to showcase outlandish behavior nor are created as fluff. Fellini has a distinct message to the film and several scenes mock Christianity or Mussolini’s crazy political ideas.

The film is larger than life but also encrusted with the fear of 1930’s Fascism and the fear that the Italians felt during this time.

The film is also sweet and Fellini successfully adds a nostalgic feel to it- everyone feels cozy in a large sprawling town with unique characters, shenanigans, and a celebratory theme, but seriousness lurks beneath.

Amarcord is a zest for life throughout a tumultuous time and Fellini successfully creates a hybrid of the two creating one fantastic film in the process.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Foreign Language Film (won), Best Director-Federico Fellini

The Man with the Golden Gun-1974

The Man with the Golden Gun-1974

Director Guy Hamilton

Starring Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland

Top 100 Films #77

Scott’s Review #346


Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Though not typically regarded as one of the more appealing of James Bond films, and the second chapter to feature Roger Moore, Sean Connery’s replacement, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) is one of my favorites, firmly placed in my top 5 of 007 offerings.

This could be the result of the film being one of my first introductions to the world of 007 as a child.

Moore seems more comfortable in the role than he did in the uneven Live and Let Die, released in 1973.

Qualities that make The Man with the Golden Gun a success include the wonderful casting of Christopher Lee, a famed horror film icon, in the central role of Francisco Scaramanga, the title character, and nemesis of Bond.

Who cannot think of Count Dracula while watching Lee act- his dark, swarthy looks, angular face, and his deep baritone voice make for a perfect villain.

Known in large part for participation in Hammer Horror films opposite another legend, Peter Cushing, this is casting at its finest and a true high point of the film.

To summarize the story, MI6 receives a golden bullet with “007” sketched on the side, a clear threat to the life of James Bond. It is assumed to have been sent by the famed assassin, Scaramanga, whose trademark is a deadly golden gun.

Bond is ordered to remove himself from his current mission, but he pays no mind and sets out to find Scaramanga on his own, leading him into a mystery involving a stolen solar energy weapon feared to destroy the world.

The adventure takes Bond to a bevy of gorgeous locales such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Macau, and the South China Sea where our villain resides on a private island reached only by helicopter.

I found the main locale of the sunny deserted island and Scaramanga’s dwarf sidekick, Nick Nack, great aspects of the film. Majestic caves, sandy beaches, and a gorgeous array of water set the tone with gorgeous fantasy elements.

Servant Nick Nack is sinister, but with a sweet smile, one almost trusts him as he serves lunch or expensive champagne to guests sure to be killed afterward.

The secret maze of mirrors that Bond finds himself in is made perfect by Nick Nack’s taunting and cackling. And the flying car that Scaramanga and Nick Nack drive-in, though gimmicky, is a real hoot.

A demerit to The Man with the Golden Gun that I have always been able to look past since other factors usurp her importance is the miscasting of Britt Eklund as Bond’s assistant, Mary Goodnight.

The writer’s pen Goodnight as simpering, silly, and a big goof. An attempt at comic relief falls flat as the character epitomizes a blonde bubblehead- constantly screwing up everything.

Scaramanga’s girlfriend and co-Bond girl, Andrea Anders, played by Maud Adams is much better, though we do not get to know the character very well before she is offed.

Fortunately, Adams would return to star in Octopussy in 1983.

Perhaps middling at times and suffering from some negative characteristics, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) is a love of mine, a trip down memory lane to a time as a child when I was first discovering my love and zest for James Bond films.

This offering cemented my love of Roger Moore in the central role and I still adore watching this film.



Director Roman Polanski

Starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway

Top 100 Films #30

Scott’s Review #321


Reviewed January 3, 2016

Grade: A

Chinatown (1974) is like a perfectly aged fine red wine- with each passing year or viewing, it becomes more and more spectacular.

A thinking man’s film, if you will, Chinatown is a complex puzzle, just waiting to unravel in a layered, complicated fashion. However, this is to its credit, as it is a fantastic, rich, film noir, and as good as cinematic writing gets.

Set in the 1930s the set pieces and art direction are flawless- as great a film in look as in the story.

Director Roman Polanski and star Jack Nicholson are largely responsible for the success of the film.

The direction is a marvel as the cinematography, flow, and pacing are astounding. A slow build, the film takes off at just the perfect point as the mystery gets deeper and deeper, building to a crescendo.

Nicholson plays Jake Gittes, a handsome Los Angeles private investigator hired by a woman claiming to be Evelyn Mulwray. Evelyn desires to have her husband followed, as she suspects him of an affair with another woman.

Jake begins tailing the woman’s husband, only to uncover an intriguing mystery involving the Los Angeles water supply. Soon, the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) turns up and the film segues into a masterful web of complications and turns of events.

One will not see the ending coming.

Nicholson leads the film as only he can. With his charismatic, aww shucks attitude, mixed with humor, he is eye candy for the camera, as he takes the case and becomes more and more immersed in the action.

This film was a pivotal point for him as he began a slew of worthwhile and abundant performances in pictures.

Let us not forget to mention the acting performance of Dunaway. Smoldering, sexy, classy, intelligent, and vulnerable, she perfectly plays almost every emotion.

Chinatown, Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and Mommie Dearest (1981) are her best works in a career that spanned decades of success.

Chinatown (1974) is an entity unto itself in film noir. It is incredibly well-written, nuanced, and flawless.

This film simply must be seen.

The final thirty minutes- in addition to the “great reveal” are also violent, shocking, and extraordinary. A blueprint of what great filmmaking truly is.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Director-Roman Polanski, Best Actor-Jack Nicholson, Best Actress-Faye Dunaway, Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Sound, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

Horror Express-1974

Horror Express-1974

Director Eugenio Martin

Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing

Scott’s Review #311


Reviewed December 30, 2015

Grade: B

Horror Express (1974) is a fun 1970s Spanish/British horror film starring legendary horror actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

A horror version of Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express with a bit of camp thrown in, it is an entertaining late-night experience, on a low-budget level.

It is the early 1900’s, and while traveling from Shanghai to Moscow, via the Trans-Siberian Express, a British anthropologist named Professor Alexander Saxton (Lee) brings an enormous,  mysterious crate on board that contains a creature he discovered in a cave.

What we know is it has something to do with human evolution.

A fellow passenger, Doctor Wells (Cushing), and various other passengers become suspicious of the crate and demand to have it opened.

Things go awry and victims begin to be murdered by the creature (an ape-like monster) and left with eyes completely white with missing pupils and irises.

The best part of Horror Express is the setting. The cozy train is a perfect backdrop for the events taking place and it makes the film exciting as the different cars are set-decorated nicely.

This lends itself to a sense of entrapment and being unable to escape the creature as it roams freely from car to car.

For being a low-budget film,  the train sets are quite believable, as are the sounds of the train. It feels like the actors are on a real train as the tooting horns and the sounds of the tracks are authentic.

Having actors as big as Lee and Cushing gives the film respect in horror circles and both actors do believable work.

This film would not have been as good without the talents (and name recognition) of both.

There are also interesting supporting characters and I didn’t find the acting to be too over-the-top as is known to occur in similar types of horror films.

Specifically, the countess’s role and the appearance of Telly Savalas as a Cossack officer investigating events are interesting.

Fans of this genre of horror will understand that suspension of disbelief is necessary as the plot gets a bit goofy- something about the creature taking the information from the victim’s brain and the victims subsequently turning into zombies- it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Especially towards the end, as some drunken Russians and some weird resurrections happen, but that is somehow okay.

For a late-night viewing with some spirits, you can’t ask too many questions and Horror Express (1974) is a decent flick.

Black Christmas-1974

Black Christmas-1974

Director Bob Clark

Starring Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder

Top 100 Films #36     Top 20 Horror Films #11

Scott’s Review #309


Reviewed December 29, 2015

Grade: A

Black Christmas (1974) is one of my favorite horror films of all time and, in my opinion, an under-appreciated classic.  Somehow it is just not the first, second, or third film mentioned when most discuss the influential horror films of years past.

My hubby and I make sure to watch it every holiday season.

It largely influenced Halloween (another love of mine) from the killer’s point of view camera shots to the seasonal element.

It is quite horrifying in several key scenes, in fact, and I am proud to list it as one of my favorite films.

Black Christmas is a must-see for fans of the horror genre.

The setting (a cold and snowy Christmas) is perfect and the film is shot quite dark. There are Christmas lights and carolers for a great winter holiday effect. Most of the film takes place at night and the location is primarily inside a huge, rather creepy, sorority house. The ambiance is well thought out.

Several sorority girls, led by boozy Barb (Margot Kidder) and sweet-natured Jess (Olivia Hussey), prepare to depart for the holiday season by having a small farewell Christmas party. Recently, the girls have been harassed by a prank caller spouting nonsensical gibberish daily.

As in true horror fashion, the girls are systematically offed one by one as events turn dire. Two sub-plots that ultimately merge with the central plot include Jess’s pregnancy by suspicious boyfriend Peter and the search in the park for a missing young girl.

The best part of Black Christmas is that it is an honest, raw film, made on a small budget, that does not include gimmicks or contrivances.

It has authenticity.

A disturbing film for sure,  one victim being posed in a rocking chair continuously rocking back and forth next to the attic window, while said victim is bound in plastic wrap, holding a doll, mouth, and eyes wide, is one of the most chilling in horror film history.

The nuances of the killer also scare and the brilliance of this is that his motivations are mysterious and unclear (in large part the success of Michael Meyers as well). We never fully see the killer except for his shape and eyes, and that is the brilliance of the film.

The one slight negative to the film is the decision to make the cops appear incompetent. The desk sergeant, in particular, is a complete dope- one wonders how he got his job- as a sexual joke by one of the girls goes over his head while the other detectives laugh like fools.

Why is this necessary? I suppose for comic relief, but isn’t that the purpose of Mrs. Mac, the overweight, boozy sorority mother?  Her constant treasure hunt for hidden booze (the toilet, inside a book) is comical and fun.

Her posing and posturing in front of the mirror (she is a very frumpy, average woman) are a delight and balance the heavy drama.

The conclusion of Black Christmas is vague and fantastic and works very well. Due, once again, to the police errors, the final victim’s fate is left unclear as we see her in a vulnerable state, unaware that the killer is looming nearby.

We only hear a ringing phone and wonder what happens next.

My admiration for Black Christmas (1974) only grows upon each viewing as I am once again compelled, to notice more and more ingenious nuances in the film.

Can’t wait until next Christmas to watch it again.



Director Jim Clark

Starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing

Scott’s Review #233


Reviewed April 3, 2015

Grade: B-

Madhouse, a 1974 British horror film, stars horror icon Vincent Price who portrays a sympathetic Hollywood actor who is unsure of his sanity after the grisly murder of his trophy fiancé whom he may or may not have been responsible for murdering.

Mainly set in London, Madhouse also stars famed British actors in the latter stages of their careers, such as Peter Cushing, and is a treat for classic British horror fans.

The look of the film is stylistic and effective in the mood- the story, while silly, is also fun.

Paul Toombes (Price) is a famed actor notorious for his character of Dr. Death in a successful film franchise. He seemingly has it all and is the envy of his contemporaries- wealth, notoriety, and a glamorous blonde fiancé named Ellen.

After Ellen is murdered by someone dressed as Dr. Death, Paul is unable to remember the circumstances or his whereabouts during the murder.

After spending years in a mental institution in a confused state he is summoned to London to mount an acting comeback of sorts, reprising his Dr. Death alter-ego.

As the bodies begin to pile up, a whodunit commences- is Paul Toombes the killer, or is someone impersonating him?

The film itself is quite pleasing to a horror fan like me. The deaths, while silly, are fun and campy.

Mostly all female victims, a comical aspect is how the victims, when cornered by the killer, simply scream and stand there waiting to be sliced.

Wouldn’t they fight back in real life?

This film is certainly not realism at its finest but is a fun horror film. It is a bit exaggerated and over-the-top in a campy way but is also true to the 1970s style with the point of view scenes from the killer’s perspective.

A wonderful aspect of this film is real clips of old Vincent Price films (The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, and House of Usher) to name a few, featuring deceased horror god Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.

Since the plot involves Price’s character being a former horror actor this is a wonderful opportunity to showcase long-ago classic horror films and it works perfectly.

I enjoyed the television scenes within the film plot as Paul revives his career and shoots a series for the BBC- the film chooses interesting, haunting sets and Cushing’s character of Herbert Flay and his zany wife reside in a spooky, vast mansion with eerie spiders that the wife is obsessed with.

The set pieces are great and very Halloween-like. And the spider-eating-flesh scene is excellent!

The tag team of Price and Cushing is fun to watch- both horror stalwarts connect well and both actors play off of each other successfully.

They had a ball while making this film.

Towards the end of the film, the plot becomes confusing and the big reveal as to the killer’s identity and the motivations surrounding is a disappointment.

The conclusion to the film is silly and makes little sense, although that is secondary to a film of this genre that borders on camp.

Madhouse (1974) is an enjoyable midnight flick starring two of the top classic horror icons.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia-1974

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia-1974

Director Sam Peckinpah

Starring Warren Oates

Scott’s Review #222


Reviewed February 20, 2015

Grade: B+

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a Mexican, cult-action film from 1974, directed by Sam Peckinpah, that influenced famed modern movie director Quentin Tarantino in multiple ways.

The film itself is violent, bloody, and traditionally Peckinpah in tone and look, similar to his other films (Straw Dogs from 1971 and The Wild Bunch from 1967).

The premise of the film is intriguing- a powerful man known simply as “The Boss”, turns furious and places a bounty on the head of the man who impregnated his daughter, whom he, by the way, tortures to garner this information out of.

He offers the enormous sum of 1 million dollars to the person who can “bring him the head of Alfredo Garcia”.

From this point, the action centers mostly on Bennie, a retired military officer who is intrigued by the bounty up for grabs.

Bennie, along with his prostitute girlfriend, Elita, traverses the lands of Mexico in search of Alfredo Garcia, whether he already be dead or still alive, which is a mysterious and fun element of the film.

I have a tough time taking the film too seriously as much as I enjoyed it- it seems an action farce and, without giving too much away, the scenes involving the carrying of a severed head, arguably the lead character, are as much comical as ghastly.

The illustrious lighting is a major focal point, especially during the outdoor scenes and specifically the nighttime desert scenes when Elita is almost raped by two bikers. The moonlight radiates onscreen.

The character of Elita is a fascinating one for me. On the one hand, she is an aging prostitute madly in love with Bennie and intrigued by a life with him living off their spoils. However, she almost enjoys the sexual experience with one of the bikers, played wonderfully by Kris Kristofferson, despite being roughed up by him.

The scene, while certainly violent, is in a way, almost tender as the biker and Elita realize their attraction for one another. It’s a surreal scene and has almost a sense of clarity for both characters. Are they in lust?

Peckinpah women are traditionally not treated well, but Elita borders on the exception.

The Tarantino influence is undeniable- the mixture of humor amid violence- a severed head being treated as a comical prop, is immeasurable in its comparison to later Tarantino films such as the Kill Bill chapters.

Daring and pure genius, the film contains a dark tone but does not take itself too seriously by going for any sort of melodrama or being overwrought.

It is only a film and has fun with that fact. It tries to be nothing more and embraces being bizarre.

Tarantino films are like Peckinpah films just made 20-30 years apart.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia has evolved into a cult classic after having flopped commercially and critically in 1974.

How wonderful when a gem is rediscovered and laden with influence, in this case as much stylistically as otherwise.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-1974

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-1974

Director Tobe Hooper

Starring Marilyn Burns

Top 100 Films #35 

Top 20 Horror Films #10

Top 10 Disturbing Films #5    

Scott’s Review #209                                                      


Reviewed December 31, 2014

Grade: A

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is one of the grittiest, raw, frightening horror films that I have ever seen and still holds up incredibly well in present times.

Containing a documentary-like look it is incredibly scary in its grainy, visual, real-life feel. It is not psychological horror- it is in-your-face, brutal horror.

The perception of an incredibly hot, sticky, backwoods Texas summer is incredibly well done and only adds to the terror.

A group of five teenagers travels to the vast fields of Texas- aka- the middle of nowhere, presumably on a road trip. On their drive, they pick up a strange hitchhiker who ends up stabbing one of the teens and cutting his arm.

Spooked by this odd occurrence, they stop for gas and directions, but veer off course and accidentally wind up at a slaughterhouse owned by cannibals.

The group of teens is led by Sally Hardesty, played by Marilyn Burns.

As the teens are chopped off grotesquely, similar to a slew of similar fashioned, but less interesting horror films to follow, Sally winds up the lone survivor of the group.

Burns plays the first “final girl”, a title made famous in horror films as the last female remaining alive- it was almost always a female- to take on the maniacal killer.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre features one of the horror genre’s best villains- Leatherface.

The viewer knows little about him since he does not speak- is he mentally disabled? Is he an intelligent man? He is disguised behind a mask made of strewn-together human skin and wields a scary chainsaw.

We know nothing about him- only that he loves to kill.

The ambiguity is immeasurable.

Besides the way that the film is shot, another shocking element is the reality of the story. Could this happen to the viewer? The answer is yes of course it could. How many times have we been driving and gotten lost in surroundings unfamiliar to us?

There are no supernatural beings or CGI effects in this film- only a group of youngsters crossing paths with maniacs and this could happen in real life. This realization adds to the fright.

The famous- or infamous- dinner scene is revolutionary in disgust and distaste. The family attempts to serve Sally as dessert to the elderly patriarch and as he begins to suck blood from Sally’s finger, it will force the squeamish to turn away.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a short film, running at only 84 minutes, but the breathtaking finale- Sally running through the endless woods followed by Leatherface, seems interminable. Will he catch her? How can she possibly escape?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is dirty, ugly, and intense. It is no-holds-barred brutality. It is one of the best horror films ever made.

The Godfather: Part II-1974

The Godfather: Part II-1974

Director Frances Ford Coppola

Starring Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro

Top 100 Films #3

Scott’s Review #197


Reviewed: November 25, 2014

Grade: A

Frances Ford Coppola’s sequel (and technically also a prequel) to the highly regarded and successful The Godfather (1972) is one of the rare sequels to equal and even surpass the original in its greatness, creativity, and structure.

The Godfather Part II (1974) feels deeper, more complex, and ultimately richer than The Godfather- and that film itself is a masterpiece. Part II is much darker in tone. Ford Coppola had complete freedom to write and direct as he saw fit with no studio interference.

The results are immeasurable in creating a film masterpiece.

The film is sectioned into two parts, which is a highly interesting and effective decision.

The story alternates between the early twentieth century following Don Corleone’s life, now played by Robert DeNiro, as his story is explained- left without a family and on the run from a crime lord, Don escapes to the United States as a young boy and struggles to survive in the Little Italy neighborhood of New York City.

He obtains a modest job as a grocery stockboy and finally celebrates his eventual rise to power in the mafia.

The other part of the film is set in 1958 as Michael Corleone is faced with a crumbling empire, through both rivals and the FBI- investigating him and holding Senate committee hearings in Washington D.C., and a failing marriage to Kay (Diane Keaton).

Betrayal is a common theme of the film from Michael’s wife, brother, and mobster allies revealed to be cagey enemies. Michael grows uncertain and mistrustful of almost everyone surrounding him. Is Kay a friend or foe? Is Fredo plotting against him? He even begins lashing out at Tom Hagen on occasion.

What makes The Godfather Part II so brilliant, and in my opinion richer than The Godfather, is that it is tougher to watch- and that is to its credit. Now, instead of being a warm, respected member of a powerful family, Michael is questioned, analyzed, and betrayed.

New, interesting characters are introduced- Hyman Roth, played by Lee Strasburg, a former ally of Don’s, and Frankie Pentangeli, played by Michael V. Gazzo are intriguing characters and their allegiances are unknown throughout most of the film- are they loyal to the Corleone’s or deadly enemies?

The character of Michael goes from conflicted to all-out revenge-minded, including revenge sought on members of his own family. Michael is now a dark, angry character- gone is the nice, decorated war hero with his whole life ahead of him. He is much older and a changed man.

Similar to the original Godfather, the opening scene is a large celebration- this time Anthony Corleone’s first communion celebration. Also in comparison, the finale of the film involves major character deaths one after the other.

Unique to this film are the multiple location scenes- New York, Nevada, Italy, Florida, and Cuba are all featured making for an enjoyable segue throughout and a bigger budget.

The blow-up confrontation between Michael and Kay is devastating and shocking in its climax. When Michael punches Kay in a sudden rage, the audience also feels punched.

The wonderful scene at the end of the film with the entire family gathered around for Don’s fiftieth birthday in 1942 is a special treat for viewers; familiar faces make cameo appearances.

I love these aspects of the film.

The rich history of Don is the greatest aspect of The Godfather Part II simply known as “Godfather” and patriarch of the family, his life as a boy and young father are explained so we see how he became one of the most powerful men in the crime world.

I love how he remains a decent man and helps the poor and the victims of ruthless Don Fanucci, his predecessor. He loves his wife and children, but also loves his neighbors, and helps them, believing in fairness.

Ultimately, the characters of Don and Michael are worlds apart.

The Godfather Part II (1974) is one of the most complex and well-written films in movie history- studied in film school, discussed, imitated, and championed. It remains vital and should be viewed and analyzed again and again and again.

Oscar Nominations: 5 wins-Best Picture (won), Best Director-Francis Ford Coppola, Best Actor-Al Pacino, Best Supporting Actor-Robert De Niro (won), Michael V. Gazzo, Lee Strasberg, Best Supporting Actress-Talia Shire, Best Screenplay Adapted from Other Material (won), Best Original Dramatic Score (won), Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction (won)

The Towering Inferno-1974

The Towering Inferno-1974

Director John Guillermin

Starring Paul Newman, Steve McQueen

Top 100 Films #43

Scott’s Review #194


Reviewed November 15, 2014

Grade: A

The Towering Inferno (1974) epitomizes the disaster film craze heaped on audiences throughout the 1970s (Airport, Airport ‘75 and ‘77, The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and Earthquake (1974) to name a few).

I am (guilt-free) a huge fan of this 1970s movie genre, though some certainly look down on it, I am not one of them and feel The Towering Inferno is one of the greatest.

The film is enormous and has such a sense of adventure and danger.

The grand film tells of the trials and tribulations of an enormous cast of characters trapped inside an inferno-flamed skyscraper – led by Paul Newman and Steve McQueen (fun fact- the two actors reportedly despised each other).

An incredible skyscraper is erected in San Francisco, at one hundred and thirty-eight floors it is professed to be the tallest building in the world and incredibly state-of-the-art. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, an elaborate party is held atop the building overlooking the gorgeous Pacific Ocean.

Due to faulty electrical wiring, the building catches fire and the cast of characters faces one challenge after another to escape the grips of death.

The stellar cast features stars like William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Robert Wagner, Jennifer Jones, and O.J. Simpson in addition to Newman and McQueen.

The film is quite a soap opera style- numerous characters are introduced, many having affairs with each other or suffering some sort of conflict.

Wagner having a torrid office romance with his secretary played by then up-and-coming star Susan Flannery is deliciously sexy and I yearned to know more about both characters.

Holden’s son-in-law is responsible for the faulty electrical system yet blames his father-in-law for cutting budgets.

Another subplot involves Astaire’s character attempting to swindle Jones’s character but then falling in love with her. The plots are so melodramatic that, given the period of the film, it has a definite primetime television soap opera style to it- think Dallas or Dynasty in a state of peril.

I enjoyed the enormous cast and trying to guess who will be killed off next and in what elaborate way the film will burn them to death is a joy to watch- several victims fall or jump to their deaths, which eerily (and sadly) bring back morbid images of jumpers from the World Trade towers on 9/11.

The beginning of the film shows a dedication to firemen everywhere and the film has a definite moral and heroical quality to the firemen sent to rescue the people in the building. They are portrayed as heroes and intended not to be forgotten amid all the drama encompassing the story. This is admirable.

The special effects are elaborate and quite impressive- the glass elevator rescue scene is amazing! The beautiful set designs are a treat to watch as each lobby, apartment, or lounge in the skyscraper is exquisitely designed at the height of the 1970s style.

Every sofa or carpet featured is plush, colorful, and sophisticated. The skyscraper, made of glass, is an amazing element of the film, and the aerial views of the building, especially while ablaze are impressive, to say the least- remember- 1974 was long before CGI. I am assuming small replicas of the building were used, but what an achievement from a visual perspective.

The effects certainly champion the syrupy story elements.

My only small gripe with The Towering Inferno is, assumed to be 138 stories high, the action taking place at the top of the tower- the rooftop as well as the party scenes on the top floor- do not feel that high- The scenic outlook overlooking the water and some land feel about twenty-five stories high, not one hundred and thirty-eight.

Some find The Towering Inferno (1974) to be nothing more than schmaltzy drama- I say schmaltz was never done better.

Enjoy this feast of a big film.

Oscar Nominations: 3 wins-Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor-Fred Astaire, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Song-“We May Never Love Like This Again” (won), Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography (won), Best Film Editing (won)

Female Trouble-1974

Female Trouble-1974

Director John Waters

Starring Divine

Scott’s Review #146


Reviewed August 4, 2014

Grade: A

Female Trouble (1974) is a deliciously naughty treat by famous Independent film legend, John Waters.

Not exactly family-friendly, it is a gem for those desiring more left-of-center fare with depravity and gross-out fun mixed in for good measure.

Water’s theme of the film is “crime is beauty” and the film is dedicated to Manson family member, Charles “Tex” Watson.

Meant for adult, late-night viewing, the film tells the story of female delinquent Dawn Davenport, who angrily leaves home one Christmas morning after not receiving her desired cha-cha heels as a Christmas present.

Her parents, religious freaks, disown her and she is left to fend for herself on the streets of Baltimore.

The film then tells of her life story of giving birth and subsequently falling into a life of crime in the 1960s.  Her friends Chicklet and Concetta are in tow as they work various jobs and embark on a career of theft.

Female Trouble stars Waters regulars Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, Cookie Mueller, and others.

Interestingly, Divine plays a dual role- Dawn Davenport (in drag, of course) and also the father of her bratty child- Earl Peterson. Dawn and Earl have a less-than-romantic interlude on a dirty mattress on the side of the road when he picks her up hitchhiking, which results in the birth of Taffy.

Also featured is the hilarious feud between Dawn and her love interest’s (Gator) Aunt Ida, as the women engage in tactics such as acid throwing and chopping off of limbs as they constantly exact revenge on each other.

Favorite scenes include Dawn’s maniacal nightclub act in which she does her rendition of acrobatics and then begins firing a gun into the crowd. Another is of Dawn’s dinner party with Donald and Donna Dasher- serving a meal consisting of spaghetti and chips, Taffy’s tirade hilariously ruins the evening.

This film is not for the prudish, squeamish, or uptight crowd, but a ball for all open-minded, dirty fun-seekers. The film contains one over-the-top, hilarious scene after another.

The line “just cuz you got them big udders don’t make you somethin’ special” is a Waters classic.

Female Trouble is one of a series of outrageous, cult-classics featuring the legendary camp star, Divine.

Not meant to be overanalyzed or some might say, analyzed at all, Female Trouble (1974) is unabashedly trashy and makes no apologies for its outrageousness.

The Conversation-1974

The Conversation-1974

Director Frances Ford Coppola

Starring Gene Hackman

Top 100 Films #5

Scott’s Review #83


Reviewed July 1, 2014

Grade: A

The Conversation (1974) is one of my favorite films. It is a thinking man’s psychological thriller that is pure genius.

Had The Godfather (1972) not been the success that it was, this film would never have been made.

It is a very personal story crafted by Francis Ford Coppola.

The film stars Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert, who is a technical genius, but social misfit Harry Caul, a cynical man suspicious of everybody.

He is paranoid.

He is hired by a mysterious ‘Director’ to tap a young couple’s conversations and submit the recordings to the Director’s assistant played by a very young Harrison Ford (his first film).

Harry is also obsessed with his privacy chastising his landlord for sending flowers to his apartment. His latest assignment becomes an obsession for him as he begins a downward spiral of paranoia concerning a young couple he feels is in danger.

For the viewer and the character of Harry Caul, we feel we have everything figured out but do we? Is the couple in danger? Who are they?

Many aspects of the film are fuzzy and unclear which is the genius of it and makes the viewer think. The atmosphere is repetitive and tense. The endless sound loops and the surveillance in the park are highly effective.

The creepy hotel scene towards the climax of the film is my favorite in its bizarre nature.

Each time I view The Conversation (1974) I see something different or try to dissect it in a new way. That to me is film-making at its greatest.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound

Swept Away-1974

Swept Away-1974

Director Lina Wertmüller

Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato

Scott’s Review #72


Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: B+

Swept Away (1974) is an Italian version of the film remade starring Madonna in 2004.

A wealthy, spoiled woman is stranded on a deserted island with her male servant.

The 1974 film is superb and, at times, deeply disturbing, as scenes of humiliation are almost too much to watch.

The theme is about the class system- the haves and the have-nots and what happens when roles are reversed and individuals are stripped of titles is interesting, shocking, and, at times, troubling.

I was stunned, yet mesmerized, by a very animalistic scene in which a man beats a woman. At first, the man is the sympathetic one and the woman is despised, then the roles are shockingly reversed.

Amazingly, the film was directed by a woman, Lina Wertmüller, a brave, underappreciated German director.

When, inevitably, the pair are rescued and return to normalcy, the plot takes a very dynamic turn.