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Friday, 20 August 2010

The Most Essential Cult Movies of the 1970's

The Mike over at From Midnight, With Love has unleashed a meme that has pulled me out of hibernation for all but a brief moment of time. I couldn't let this meme go untouched without adding my 2 cents worth to the deal for the simple fact that in The Mike's own blog post "Hey, Midnight Warriors! Wanna talk about some '70s Cult Films?" he states that a large number of bloggers out there weren't around during the 70's to actually enjoy these cult films on the silver screen when first released.

Well guess what boppers? I was....

Soooooo... not only am I more than qualified to spruik on my soap box about the glory of cult films from the 1970's, being the smartass that I am, my own TOP 5 list will only comprise of both "true" 1970's cult films that I personally got to "spy with my little eye" up there on the big screen AND have in my own movie collection. See. Told you I'm a smartass....

So, before I kick into my Top 5 list, let's set ourselves a half decent benchmark. Firstly, how the hell do we define a "Cult" film?

A cult film (also known as a cult movie/picture or a cult classic) is a film that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans. Often, cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside the small fanbases; however, there have been exceptions that have managed to gain fame among mainstream audiences. Many cult movies have gone on to transcend their original cult status and have become recognized as classics; others are of the "so bad it's good" variety and are destined to remain in obscurity. Cult films often become the source of a thriving, obsessive, and elaborate subculture of fandom, hence the analogy to cults. However, not every film with a devoted fanbase is necessarily a cult film. Usually, cult films have limited but very special, noted appeal.

Cult films are often known to be eccentric, often do not follow traditional standards of mainstream cinema and usually explore topics not considered in any way mainstream—yet there are examples that are relatively normal. Many are often considered controversial because they step outside standard narrative and technical conventions. (1)

So with that thought in mind boppers, let's take "a jump to the left, and then a step to the right" back into the 70's and kick out a list of -

MY TOP 5 "MOST ESSENTIAL CULT MOVIES OF THE 1970's"

NUMBER 5  

LOGAN'S RUN


The Lowdown

Logan's Run is a 1976 science fiction film based on the novel of the same name by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. It depicts a dystopian  future society in which population and the consumption of resources are managed and maintained in equilibrium by the simple expediency of killing everyone who reaches the age of thirty, preventing overpopulation. The story follows the actions of Logan 5, a "Sandman," as he "runs" from society's lethal demand.

The film version, directed by Michael Anderson and starring Michael York, Richard Jordan, and Jenny Agutter, was shot primarily in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex (including locations such as the Fort Worth Water Gardens and the Dallas Market Center) between June and September 1975. The film only uses the basic premise from the novel (everyone must die at a specific age, Logan runs with Jessica as his companion while being chased by Francis). The motivations of the characters are quite different in the film. It was the first film made using Dolby Stereo.

Since 1994, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to remake the film. (Thank fuck for that....Ed.)

The Story

Sometime in the 23rd century...the survivors of war, overpopulation and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced world, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything. There's just one catch: Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of Carousel.

The Really Cool Shit

The movie is often eclipsed by science fiction movies which came after it, such as Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner, and Alien. However, for a few years following the film, science fiction conventions sometimes featured "Runs" (either organized by the convention or done ad-hoc by fans of the film); these were a chase game similar to Tag, in which the Runners (most in costume) fled from a handful of Sandmen (also in costume). These decreased in popularity following several occasions in which police responded to frantic calls made by observers who mistook them for real chases.


NUMBER 4

WESTWORLD



The Low down

Westworld is a 1973 science fiction / thriller film written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton and produced by Paul Lazarus III. It stars Yul Brynner as a lifelike robot in a futuristic Western-themed amusement park, and Richard Benjamin and James Brolin as customers who are attacked by the park's robots when they malfunction.

Westworld was the last movie MGM produced before dissolving its releasing company, and was the first theatrical feature directed by Crichton. It was also the first feature film to use digital image processing to pixellate photography to simulate an android point of view. The film was nominated for Hugo, Nebula and Golden Scroll (a.k.a. Saturn) awards, and was followed by a sequel film, Futureworld, and a short-lived television series, Beyond Westworld.

The Story

The story is set sometime in the near future, in Delos, a high-tech, highly realistic fictional adult amusement park featuring androids  that are almost indistinguishable from human beings. For a price of $1,000 per day, guests may indulge in any fantasy, including killing or having sex with the androids. The androids are programmed to act in character for each of the park's three themed zones: WesternWorld (the American Old West), MedievalWorld (medieval Europe), and RomanWorld (pre-Christian Rome). One of the main attractions in WesternWorld is the Gunslinger  (Brynner), a robot programmed to start duels. Thanks to its programming, humans can always outdraw the Gunslinger and kill it. The guns issued to the guests also have temperature sensors that prevent them from shooting each other or anything else living but allow them to 'kill' the room-temperature androids.

The Really Cool Shit

Westworld was the first feature film to use digital image processing. John Whitney Jr. and Gary Demos at Information International Inc. (aka "Triple I") digitally processed motion picture photography to appear pixelized in order to portray the Gunslinger android's point of view. The approximately 2 minutes and 31 seconds worth of cinegraphic block portraiture was accomplished by color-separating (3 basic color separations plus black mask) each frame of source 70mm footage, scanning each of these elements to convert into rectangular blocks, then adding basic color according to the tone values developed. The resulting coarse pixel matrix was output back to film. The process was covered in the American Cinematographer article Behind the scenes of Westworld.


NUMBER 3

HAROLD AND MAUDE



The Low Down

Harold and Maude is a 1971 American comedy film directed by Hal Ashby. It incorporates elements of dark humor and existentialist drama, with a plot that revolves around the exploits of a young man intrigued with death, Harold (played by Bud Cort). Harold drifts away from the life that his detached mother prescribes for him, and develops a relationship with an elderly woman named Maude (played by Ruth Gordon).

The film is ranked number 45 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Funniest Movies of all Time, and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1997 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The film was a commercial flop in its original release, and critical reception was extremely mixed. However, it has since developed a large cult following.

The Story

Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is a 19-year-old boy obsessed with death. He regularly stages elaborate suicides, attends funerals, and drives a hearse, all to the chagrin of his mother, socialite Mrs. Chasen (Vivian Pickles). At services for a total stranger, Harold meets Maude (Ruth Gordon), a 79-year-old woman who shares Harold's hobby of attending funerals for fun. He is entranced by her quirky outlook on life, which is bright and excessively carefree in contrast with his own morbidity. The pair form a bond, and Maude slowly shows Harold the pleasures of art and music (Harold is taught to play banjo), and teaches him how to "[make] the most of his time on earth."  Meanwhile, Harold's mother determines, much against Harold's wishes, to find him a wife to settle down with. One by one, Harold frightens and horrifies each of his appointed dates by appearing to commit gruesome acts such as self-immolation, self-mutilation, and seppuku.

As they become closer, Harold announces that he will marry Maude, resulting in disgusted outbursts from his family. Maude's 80th birthday arrives, and Harold throws a surprise party for her. As the couple dance, Maude tells Harold that she "couldn't imagine a lovelier farewell." He immediately questions Maude as to her meaning, and she reveals that she has purposely taken an overdose of sleeping pills and will be dead by midnight. She restates her firm belief that 80 is the proper age to die.

Harold rushes Maude to the hospital, where she is treated unsuccessfully and dies. In the final sequence, Harold's car is seen going off a seaside cliff, but after the crash, the final shot reveals Harold standing quite calmly atop the cliff, holding his banjo. After gazing down at the wreckage, he dances away, picking out on his banjo Cat Stevens' "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out".

The Really Cool Shit

Harold and Maude is #45 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Years... 100 Laughs, the list of the top 100 films in American comedy. The list was released in 2000. Two years later, AFI released the list AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions honoring the most romantic films for the past 100 years, Harold and Maude ranked #69. Entertainment Weekly ranked the film #4 on their list of “The Top 50 Cult Films.”

In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten Top Ten" - the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres - after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Harold and Maude was acknowledged as the ninth best film in the romantic comedy genre.


NUMBER 2

THE WARRIORS



The Low Down

The Warriors is a 1979 American cult action/thriller film directed by Walter Hill and based on Sol Yurick's 1965 novel of the same name. Like the novel, the film borrows elements from the Anabasis by Xenophon.

The Story

Cyrus (Roger Hill), leader of the Gramercy Riffs, the most powerful gang in New York City, calls a midnight summit of all New York area gangs, all of them asked to send nine unarmed representatives to Van Cortlandt Park. The Warriors, from Coney Island, Brooklyn, are one such gang.

Cyrus tells the assembled crowd that a permanent citywide truce would allow the gangs to control the city, pointing out there are 60,000 of them and only 20,000 officers in the NYPD. Most of the gangs laud his idea, but Luther (David Patrick Kelly), leader of the Rogues uses a smuggled gun to shoot Cyrus. Panic ensues and the NYPD rushes in. Fox (Thomas G. Waites) one of the Warriors, sees Luther commit the shooting, but in the chaos, Luther screams that the Warriors are responsible. While the Riffs beat their leader Cleon (Dorsey Wright), the other eight Warriors escape the melee and debate their next move, knowing they are deep in enemy territory.

Meanwhile, Masai, second-in-command of the Riffs, takes charge, and declares a bounty on the Warriors. This sets the city's gang population out hunting for them, with a seemingly omniscient radio DJ (Lynne Thigpen) reporting on the events.

The Really Cool Shit

Over the years, The Warriors has developed a significant cult following. At Seattle’s Grand Illusion Cinema, programmer Zack Carlson remembers, “people were squeezed in, lying on the floor, cheering". Entertainment Weekly named The Warriors the 16th greatest cult film on their "Top 50 Greatest Cult Films" list. The magazine also ranked it 14th in the list of the "25 Most Controversial Movies Ever".


NUMBER 1
 
STONE



The Low Down

Stone is a 1974 Australian film, produced and directed by Sandy Harbutt. It was a low budget movie, written by Sandy Harbutt and Michael Robinson.

Police officer Stone goes undercover with the Gravediggers outlaw motorcycle gang, to find out who is murdering their members, one by one.

The film stars Ken Shorter and features Rebecca Gilling, Bill Hunter and Helen Morse. The film's soundtrack was composed by Billy Green and featured some members of his group Sanctuary. Motorcycles featured include the legendary Kawasaki Z1(900). Stone initially rides a Norton.

The promotional trailer clip on YouTube features narration by radio and media personality John Laws. The film was featured in the documentary, Not Quite Hollywood about Australian exploitation films.

The Story

When several members of the GraveDiggers outlaw motorcycle club are murdered, Sydney detective Stone (Ken Shorter) is sent to investigate. Led by the Undertaker (Sandy Harbutt), a Vietnam war veteran, the GraveDiggers allow Stone to pose as a gang member. Leaving behind society girlfriend Amanda (Helen Morse), Stone begins to identify with the Undertaker and his comrades Hooks (Roger Ward), Toad (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Dr Death (Vincent Gil), Captain Midnight (Bindi Williams), Septic (Dewey Hungerford) and Vanessa (Rebecca Gilling), the Undertaker’s girlfriend. Amid violent confrontations with the Black Hawks, a rival gang the GraveDiggers hold responsible, Stone uncovers a political conspiracy behind the killings. When the truth is revealed, Stone must choose between his job and his loyalty to the GraveDiggers.

The Really Cool Shit

I was lucky enough to have a really cool dad who would take me to see alternative and off-beat cinema all through the 70's. But Stone stood as being 'different' for a number of reasons, not only because it's a piece of Australian iconic underground and alternative cinema from the 70's. For me, even at an early age, Stone was a life changing viewing experience. It was the first time I had ever heard the word "cunt" in any movie, let alone any movie outside of a pornographic film. Stone was almost the Australian equivalent of the American "Easy Rider", but with a cultural flavour unique to the "Down Under" life style and experience in the 1970's. It was a film that captured a piece of our alternative and underground lifestyle, it showcased upcoming Australian acting talent, and remains as it was then, a confronting visual and thought provoking cinematic story. It took me ages to find a copy of it as I hit my teenage years, because it became one of those 'forgotten' movies that only a handful of people knew or cared about. Even today, it's still hard to locate a decent transfer copy of the film onto DVD. I only have it on VHS!!!

The title of this piece is "The Most Essential Cult Movies of the 1970's", and although we've kinda focused on the 'Cult' aspect, really, the key word in the meme for me is actually 'essential'. Movies you owe yourself to check out before the bucket list checks in. You may have seen The Warriors, hell, you might even have seen a few others in my list. But I can guarantee that whilst none of the movies falls into my preferred genre of Horror, all of my Top 5 Most Essential Cult Movies of the 1970's are indeed exactly that. Essential. Worth making the effort to hunt down and lose yourself in for an hour or so with the damn cell phone turned off, in homage to the fact we didn't have them annoying fuckers in the 70's to ruin our movie viewing experience anyway...





REFERENCES

10 comments:

Jinx said...

Bloody brilliant! And informative too. I'm unfamilar with Stone so I can't wait to check it out now. Love me a Norton.

stonerphonic said...

@Jinx if only you could see the 2 Nortons I have access to here. A 1977 QEII Jubillee edition and a Charles & Di 750 wedding release of like 250 machines earthwide. Yep. You read that right. 250!!! You can't even Google a foto of this beast. That's how damn rare it is. Impressive don't even come close to these pieces of British classic cycle memorabilia. More than love me a Norton. Hell, now you got me wanting to do a bike post... lol.

The Mike said...

Fantastic list, sir! I'm completely interested in Stone now, and I do love Westworld greatly.

Thanks again for joining in!

iZombie said...

Greetings HBA Member,
With the recent attention to the Horror Blogger Alliance and updates, I thought would be good to build a database for [over 350] the group.

For More Info: http://horrorbloggeralliance.blogspot.com/2010/08/i-am-getting-our-affairs-in-order.html

Please Update Soon... and if you have updated your information, please disregard.

Thanks,
Jeremy [iZombie]
HBA Staff
jeremy@jmhdigital.com

The Floating Red Couch said...

hey stoney,

I got something bloggie to propose to you but I don't know how to contact you other than through here. Would you mind emailing me @ rubenr3[at]gmail[dot]com?

stonerphonic said...

@The Mike my pleasure Sir. Thanks forgiving me the chance to spin the 70's out the way it deserves!!!

Anonymous said...

Well-written, learned for himself a lot of new, thank you for this!

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!

Alex Goulart said...

Anybody remember a movie with a guy who finds this weapon left by aliens and it attaches to his arms.. Hi they fires it and fight off the aliens with it..It was from the 70's..

Alex Goulart said...

Anybody remember a movie with a guy who finds this weapon left by aliens and it attaches to his arms.. Hi they fires it and fight off the aliens with it..It was from the 70's..

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