Category Archives: 1970’s

Weekend of a Champion

I stumbled across this on Netflix and had to watch it becaue it was about Formula 1 and Jackie Stewart.

It was directed by Roman Polanski who is a good friend of Jackie’s, and was filmed over the course of the 1971 Monaco GP weekend.

It followed Jackie as he prepared for the race, with plenty of behind the scenes footage which was fascinating to watch. There was footage of him talking to his engineers about car setup, talking with other drivers including Graham Hill, Francois Cevert (Jackie’s teammate, who died two years later), and to Roman himself.

The trackside and in-car footage was good to see. Jackie had a 16 mm camera in the car with him which gave some great footage as he screamed around the circuit during practice. The cars in those days looked fragile and lacked basic driver safety, so those drivers were truly brave and slightly nuts. Both Chris Amon and Denny Hulme were in the race also (both NZ drivers).

The almost total lack of safety was clearly evident. Jackie was at the time trying to get Formula 1 safety improved, and it was his efforts that have made F1 as safe as it is today. But, in this documentary you can see track marshals, photographers, and other people right on the side of the track during the race, with absolutely no barrier between them and the cars which in places were passing by only a metre or so away.

As this is Monaco there were plenty of celebrities around, and in the after-race dinner we saw Ringo Starr, Joan Collins, Grace Kelly, and Prince Rainer.

After this premiered in 1972 it had a small release then was forgotten for 40 years. Roman rediscovered it, recut it, and it was re-released in 2013. Roman added some present day footage shot in the same hotel room where Jackie and his wife stayed during the 1971 race weekend. He talked with Jackie about the race, his work on F1 safety, Jackie’s dyslexia, and sideburns.

This is really only for Jackie Stewart and Formula 1 fans, of which I am both so I enjoyed it. For others it might be a bit dull.

Date watched: December 4th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2017: 138

The Incredible Melting Man

I don’t know why I put this on “Watch later” on YouTube quite some time ago, perhaps it was purely because of the title.

It is a 1977 science fiction horror film about three astronauts who are on a mission to Saturn and are near the rings when a blast of radiation (the stock footage showed sun flares) kills two of them and serious burns the third. He somehow makes it back to Earth (not explained how this happened at all). He escapes from hospital, severely burned and with his skin dripping pus and tomato sauce. He is a bit nutty by this time and as he escapes from the hospital he chases a nurse who is so terrified she runs straight through a glass door (only one of two good scenes in whole film unfortunately, and the actress bravely did the actual stunt). His doctor and good friend surmises that he needs to kill and eat people to survive. The doctor calls an army general who is for some reason is involved in all this, and he decides this must be kept under wraps, so only the doctor, another doctor, and the general set about finding The Incredible Melting Man, even though he is clearly very dangerous. It is all very messy from there on and ends with the deaths of everyone involved.

According to Wikipedia this film started out as a horror spoof but the producers decided during filming that a straight horror would make more money. Some scenes were re-shot without the director, with the director criticising them because of the inferior acting in these scenes (indeed this was quite evident in many scenes). So it comes out as quite a mess of a film.

The other good scene of sorts in this film was the reaction from a character who chopped of The Incredible Melting Man’s arm, as you can watch here. The scene is rather protracted and is the best piece of bad acting you will see for some time. Pure gold!

The makeup by Rick Baker though was quite impressive, and quite gory. At one point the right eye of The Incredible Melting Man drips out, and his face was constantly dripping pus and other revolting liquids.

Looking up Rick Baker I found that he had a cameo in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, as you can see below.

Not worth watching at all, just watch the two clips I included in this post, that is all you need to see.

Date watched: August 25th
Score: 1/10
Film count 2017: 95

The Seven-Ups

After the previous film I felt like a double feature, so I chose this 1973 crime drama thriller.

It stars the excellent Roy Scheider, and is directed and produced by Philip D’Antoni who produced Bullitt and The French Connection, so of course there was an epic car chase. This was the only film he directed.

The story involves a group who kidnap higher echelon mafia bosses for random. Roy is a member of a renegade police team called “The Seven-Ups” who bust crims so well that they are sent to the joint for at least seven years (had they been busted by regular cops they would have gotten off lightly). Roy and his team set about finding out who the kidnappers are, and it becomes personal when one of their team is killed by one of the kidnappers, played by Richard Lynch, a superb villain actor.

The plot is pretty good, and while there is not a lot of action, it is still engaging enough, and the acting is decent. The cinematography too was good.

Roy Scheider was great in his role, as he was in all of his films. He was quite the accomplished amateur boxer in the mid to late forties. He died in 2008.

Roy did some of the driving in the car chase scene, which was coordinated by a chap named Bill Hickman. He worked with James Dean, and was first on the scene after Dean’s accident, holding him in his arms as he died. The chase had elements of Bullitt (the cars jumping over bumps a downhill road). It ended thus (Jerry Summers was the stunt driver):

The end of the chase was Hickman’s “homage” to the death of Jayne Mansfield, where Scheider’s car (driven by Summers) smashes into the back of a parked tractor-trailer, peeling off the car’s roof. – Wikipedia

The scenes of early seventies New York were great to see. It was quite grimy, and parts of it were a crumbling mess, but it certainly had character.

This was a very worthy watch. In fact, watching this in a triple-feature along with Bullitt and The French Connection sounds like a good idea for a future rainy day (like today… it has been bucketing down all morning so far).

Date watched: June 30th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2017: 75

A Fistful of Dynamite (aka Duck, You Sucker)

I have seen this before, at least twice I think (there is one review for it on this site), but I felt like watching it again because it is good fun.

Here is my review from my previous post:

I was so happy to find this one at the DVD rental place, I remember watching it a long time ago and thought it was great. Second time around it was just as good, maybe better because I had forgotten most of it.

It’s pretty hard to choose any one Sergio Leone movie as the best but this one is definitely right up there. Great acting, comedy, action, direction and story.

Same goes for this time around, although I forgot to mention the brillo soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. Rod Steiger was the star of this, absolutely bonkers brilliant, overshadowing James Coburn who was brillo too.

I rented this on DVD from what is most likely the best place on Earth for film rentals, “Alice In Videoland“. They are so great that they even have stuff on VHS, and a mini theatre showing only the best films.

Date watched: March 16th
Score: 9.5/10
Film count 2017: 48

Sleeping Dogs

This is a film I have been wanting to see for years, so when it popped up on Mubi I had to watch it.

This was Roger Donaldson’s first film, made back in 1977, and starred a young Sam Neill with this film being the third of his career. There was also a cast of New Zealand’s Who’s Who of actors and actresses of the seventies, including Ian Mune (he also wrote the story), Ian Watkin, Davina Whitehouse, and Donna Akersten (Meet the Feebles, Bad Blood). Warren Oates played an American Army dude.

From Wikipedia: In the scene where Warren Oates steps out of his jeep and meets “Smith”, he is actually holding a page of the script, fearing that he’d forget the lines. Oates acted as if the paper was a list of directions to the motel. Ha!.

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Sam Neill

The story was simple, and somewhat full of holes and unexplained things. It was a bit disappointed actually, I was expecting a bit more depth. It is basically about the government deciding that repressing the people was a good idea, with Sam’s character involuntarily becoming a member of the resistance and hunted by government thugs. There is one scene in the film which was a talking point at the time (this was a big film when it came out in NZ) involving riot police beating up protesters with plenty of blood flowing. This was quite unthinkable at the time, but a few years later this would actually happen when the South African Rugby team visited NZ, causing riots.

Seeing 1970’s New Zealand was interesting, and there was plenty of beautiful landscapes to look at which made me terribly homesick.

This was the first New Zealand-made feature film to be filmed in 35mm. The next Roger Donaldson film I must see is Smash Palace, which I may have seen a very long time ago, but I have forgotten.

Date watched: February 15th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2017: 36

sleeping_dogs

The French Connection

When this film came out in 1971 it was rated R, mostly for violence and the use of some very salty language. These days it is not shocking at all, Marvel films have a lot more violence (but no salty language). Times have changed, and film making has too.

The story is quite simple, Gene Hackman (now 86 years old) is a renegade narcotics detective who loves busting drug dealers, and along with his partner played by Roy Scheider, they latch onto a big time French heroin dealer who wants to sell a large amount of heroin in New York. The rest of the film is basically just Gene and Roy tailing the drug dealers and waiting for the big deal to go down so they can swoop in a bust asses.

This was actually based on a real story about two real NYPD detectives by the names of Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, both of whom went on to work in TV and film.

The story is gritty stuff, and the locations in New York are dirty, run down, and rough. What a place New York was back then, it looked like a dump in places, but it also had character.

The centrepiece of the film is a car chase where Gene chases a train on which an assassin is trying to escape. There is a good write up about the chase here, and watch the video at the 2:41 mark where a guy unsuspectingly drives into filming of the chase and his car was smacked hard.

french-connection-crash
“Why you stupid assho… Hey! That’s Gene Hackman!”

Today this film is considered a classic, which I did not really think when I was watching it, although I did like this film a lot. But, after reading about it on the internet, especially Roger Ebert’s review, I can see why.

Very much well worth watching.

Date watched: January 27th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2017: 20

french-connection

The Thing With Two Heads

For my “Poster of the Moment”, I randomly search on the internet for something, and yesterday I found the poster for this 1972 film which I liked. So, that night I decided to check out the actual film.

It was pretty crappy, as I was expecting, but there were a few intentional and plenty of unintentional laughs. The poster shows a two-headed freak on a motorcycle, so that is what I was waiting for when I watched this.

The story involves a brilliant but bigoted doctor who is a specialist in transplants of all kinds. He is seriously ill though, and to save his own life decides to get a body transplant after successfully trying it out on a gorilla. To get a donor body he asks the governor, and the governor suggests a death row inmate. The doctor becomes very ill and goes into a coma while waiting for a body. His assistant has to accept a death row inmate who is African American as time is short and there are no other donors. So the operation goes ahead and it is a success. The doctor wakes up first and is shocked to see he is now connected to an African American body, still with it’s original head.

The real head wakes up, his name is Jack, and he is not pleased also, and still claims innocence over the murder he was accused of. Jack decides he has to prove his innocence, so after only a few days goes off to solve the crime. Long story short, Jack gets Don Marshall (he was in Land of the Giants, and died last year aged 80) to remove the doctors head (which is left on life support), and at the end Jack, his girlfriend and Don Marshall are driving in a car singing “Oh Happy Day”!

don_marshall
Don Marshall

All in all it was terribly made, but the motorcycle chase and subsequent destruction of 14 police cars was amusing because it was so absurd. All of it was absurd really, and I like a bit of absurd.

Terrible, but good.

Date watched: January 16th
Score: 3/10
Absurd score: 7.5/10
Film count 2017: 13

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