Revisiting movies from the early 1970s, I recently watched Howard W. Koch’s rather ugly cop feature Badge 373 (1973), with Robert Duvall as a rule-breaking, racist misogynist NYC detective; Willard (1971), Daniel Mann’s adaptation of Stephen Gilbert’s dark horror novel Ratman’s Notebooks; and two features by George Roy Hill, his faithful adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) and his most personal, and best, film The Great Waldo Pepper (1975).
A lot of my recent viewing has been catching up on a range of movies from the ’60s through the ’80s, some of which I saw when they were first released, while others weren’t accessible to me at the time. These include some foreign classics … and quite a bit of trash.
This year’s New Year’s Eve movie binge with my friend Steve spanned from ’50s 3D Red Menace sci-fi to ’70s blaxploitation horror to a political thriller about right-wing apocalyptic political paranoia which, while dating from 1972, suggested the atmosphere of the coming 2020 presidential election year.
Wim Wenders’ most ambitious film, Until the End of the World (1991) was a huge commercial failure when released in 1991 in a severely truncated version; the almost five-hour director’s cut gets a stunning restoration on Criterion’s two-disk Blu-ray release – visually gorgeous, fascinating and frustrating, this sci-fi epic now looks prescient in its depiction of our solipsistic attachment to out personal electronic devices.
From trash to art, boxed sets enhance the viewing experience by providing a broader context for individual movies – here, four more features from William Castle, The Trilogy of Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini, and a grab bag of five horrors from poverty row distributor Hemisphere.
Two early films from the career of Albert Finney receive excellent releases from Indicator. Finney’s Charlie Bubbles (1968) and Stephen Frears’ Gumshoe (1971) showcase the actor’s strengths and weaknesses.
Criterion release the definitive edition of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950), the pinnacle of sophisticated wit from Hollywood’s Golden Age, in a two-disk set packed with extras.
Horror, westerns science fiction, crime, magic, demons, vampires, zombies, witches, a one-legged detective, people trapped in a deadly house, a damsel in distress and a film editor driven mad by cheap exploitation movies …
Three movies from producer-director Stanley Kramer, spread across two decades, highlight his liberal sensibilities … and expose the limits of that liberalism in the face of a messy world.
A random selection of recent viewing, from Nazi propaganda to British Angry Young Men, from classic sci-fi to the 1960s revival of a French criminal mastermind as slapstick pastiche.