Favorite Film – The 70’s

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I guess I saw this on Facebook some time ago.   Somebody had the idea to post a list of your favorite films.  The list was to consist of your favorites from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  I am SURE I have this idea written down in my notebook of “blog ideas”.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. You can read that blog here:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/73828787/posts/2442817483

I am going to say that narrowing down just one film from each year will be next to impossible for me.  I am going to attempt to do it.  I have a feeling that I will go back in a day, a month, or year from now and think, “No, I should have picked _____ instead!”  At any rate, some of these will be easy to pick, and some I will have to “eenie meanie miney moe” to pick just one.  Maybe this is a topic I revisit each year?  I don’t know.

I am going to break it down by “decade”, so each post will include 10 films.  Deep breath.  Here we go – back to the year I was born:

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Of the 1970 films that made my personal favorite list, many have “war” themes:  M*A*S*H, Kelly’s Heroes, and Tora! Tora! Tora!  Other films include Dean Martin in Airport! and the Mel Brooks comedy The 12 Chairs.  Of all of the films from the year of my birth, if I had to pick my absolute favorite, it would be the classic biopic, Patton.

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George C. Scott is brilliant as Patton!  He won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role.  The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.  It’s an amazing film.

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1971 was the year that George Lucas would release his film THX 1138, Gene Wilder starred in the classic Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Clint Eastwood starred in the film that scares all radio DJs – Play Misty for Me.  But it is another Clint Eastwood film that gets my vote for my favorite film of 1971, Dirty Harry.

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There are so many good Clint Eastwood films!  It doesn’t take long for Eastwood to establish what kind of character Dirty Harry is! Come on, you know the quote:

“I know what you’re thinking: “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”

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1972 was the year we saw Burt Reynolds in Deliverance, Charles Bronson in The Mechanic, and the all star cast of the Poseiden Adventure that included Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons and others!  It was also the year that introduced many to two of the best known adult films, Behind the Green Door and Deep Throat.  1972 is probably the easiest year to pick a hands down favorite for me – no doubt about it – Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

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The novel is amazing.  The movie is just as powerful!  The cast (many unknown at the time) is just perfect!  It is hard to imagine anyone else as these characters.  Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Abe Vigoda, Richard Conte, Alex Rocco, and so many others star in this superb film about family and power.  I don’t think a week goes by without me quoting this film!  The film won the Best Picture Oscar and Brando won (and refused) the Oscar for Best Actor.

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While 1973 had some good films, in going through my list, they all are just “ok” to me.  In other words, there is no real “WOW” movie for me.  Charlton Heston is good in Soylent Green, Al Pacino is good in Serpico, The Sting had Paul Newman and Robert Redford (and the tune The Entertainer), Clint Eastwood is back for a Dirty Harry sequel called Magnum Force, and then there was the Exorcist.  I guess if I HAD to pick a favorite, it would be American Graffiti – because of two things (1) the music and (2) Wolfman Jack!

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1974 was a bit more difficult to narrow down to just one film.  The reason for this is that I have some classic favorites that were released in ’74 and “how do I just pick one?”  Two of my favorite Charles Bronson films, Mr. Majestyk and Death Wish, came out this year.  Also, two of my favorite Mel Brooks films were also released – Young Frankenstein (“That’s Frahn-kun-steen”) and Blazing Saddles!  It did, however, become clear that the one film that had to be at the top for 1974 was The Godfather Part II.

Al Pacino In 'The Godfather: Part II' Woody Allen And Mia Farrow In 'A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy' '

The first time I saw it, I hated it!  I can’t lie about that.  I was confused by the shifts from past to present.  However, it became very clear with a second and third watch that the shifting from past to present is what makes this movie SO amazing.  If you really must see it all in order, you can rent the Godfather DVD and watch it chronologically.  This movie is where you really see the genius of Francis Ford Coppola.  Robert Deniro is just amazing as Vito and Al Pacino’s portrayal of Michael is about as perfect as it can get.

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1975 was the year that had us doing the Time Warp, thanks to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The Sunshine Boys was supposed to star Walter Matthau and Jack Benny (there are clips of screen test shots on YouTube somewhere), but when Benny died, George Burns stepped in.  Jack Nicholson is “crazy” good in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Dean Martin starred in a forgotten favorite, Mr. Ricco.  The one movie that really stands out for me from 1975 is based on the Peter Benchley novel – Jaws!

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Like many, I couldn’t swim at the beach for some time after seeing it!  Now, they actually show it on a screen while people float in rafts and tubes on a lake in the summer time!  And who can forget the Jaws theme?

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In 1976, America celebrated it’s bicentennial year.  It was a very patriotic year and there were some good films in theaters.  The Watergate Scandal was the focus of All The President’s Men.  Clint Eastwood returned in another Dirty Harry sequel, The Enforcer and the western The Outlaw Josey Wales.  The wonderful Barbara Harris was featured in both Freaky Friday and Hitchcock’s Family Plot (two very opposite roles!).  Mel Brooks offered up Silent Movie, while an all-star cast (Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, and Cliff Robertson) appeared in the war film, Midway. We were first introduced to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa in Rocky and Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were first teamed together in Silver Streak.  There are many reasons I could pick any one of these as a favorite, but I am going to go with one I already featured as my favorite – Murder By Death.  You can read that blog here:

https://wordpress.com/post/nostalgicitalian.com/856

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It’s such a fun film and I revisit it often.

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1977 was a year of great films!  There was Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.  Then George Burns first took on the role of God in Oh, God. John Travolta danced to the Bee Gees in Saturday Night Fever. We were introduced to the comedy of the Zucker brothers with Kentucky Fried Movie. Mel Brooks saluted Alfred Hitchcock in High Anxiety.  The “other” space movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, hit theaters, too.  From here, I was able to narrow things down to two faves, but as I said, I can only pick one for the year. While Star Wars could easily be the top pick for 1977, I am going with Smokey and the Bandit.

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Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Sally Field, and Jackie Gleason took us on a wild ride and this remains my favorite for a number of reasons.  First, it’s just funny.  Second, there are some very cool stunts.  Third, “East Bound and Down”.  Last, there are so many great quotes!

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Smokey JUST beats out Star Wars, probably because it’s a comedy.  Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars is a CLASSIC, and at some point I really need to blog about the influence of that film on me as a 7 year old kid!

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In 1978, we first meet Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s Halloween.  Peter Falk appears in the “sorta” sequel to Murder By Death in The Cheap Detective.  Robert Deniro and Christopher Walken star in The Deer Hunter.  Cheech and Chong go Up in Smoke.  Christopher Reeve first donned the cape in Superman.  Burt Reynolds starred as a stuntman in Hooper and tried to kill himself in The End.  We got chills that multiplied as we sang along with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease.  I’m honored to have Eddie Deezen (who plays Eugene in the film) as a friend on Facebook and he often shares cool stories about the film.  Time to pick my favorite from 1978.  It is yet another very quotable movie – a comedy – National Lampoon’s Animal House.

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Kent Dorfman.  Flounder.  Pinto.  Bluto.  D-Day.  Otter.  Animal House remains as funny to me today, as the first time I saw it.  John Belushi is just awesome in this film.  I have said before that Belushi can emote more with just his eyebrows than any other actor.  I also love John Vernon as Dean Wormer – he is such a great actor!  It’s amazing that “Shout” from Otis Day and the Knights is still requested at weddings 40+ years later.  One of my most quoted movies!

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“Zero.  Point.  Zero.”

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Closing out the decade, I see my list of favorites for each year growing more and more.  In 1979, Sigourney Weaver appeared in the first (of many) Alien films.  George Hamilton’s comedic take on Dracula was in Love at First Bite.  Sylvester Stallone appeared for his second “round” as Rocky in Rocky II.  Star Trek became relevant again, as it appeared on the big screen for the first time (with the original cast members) with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Steve Martin brought The Jerk to life.  Alan Arkin and Peter Falk are great together in The In-Laws.  Robert Stack, Eddie Deezen, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and so many others appeared in 1941 (It didn’t do all that well at the box office, but I still love this silly film). To me, my favorite of 1979 goes to the genius of Jim Henson – The Muppet Movie.  I STILL marvel at this one!

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This was such a breakthrough film.  For the first time we saw Muppets walking!  We saw them riding bikes!  The technological stuff that was achieved in this movie is still awesome to me.  This movie had tons of big cameos (including Edgar Bergan’s last film role) and just wonderful music.  I blogged about the music previously and you can read that here:

https://wordpress.com/post/nostalgicitalian.com/1218

What a “groovy” and “far out” list, huh?  I will have to move on into the 80’s next time.  I can tell you, it will be much more difficult to pick just one for every year in THAT decade!

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Pork and beans and a Diablo Sandwich

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Recently, a few of my Facebook friends began posting their top 10 funniest movies. One of those friends, actor Eddie Deezen (yes, THE Eddie Deezen from Grease, 1941, and other films), posted an article that he wrote about the classic film Airplane! which has led me to write this blog entry.

To have to pick out just 10 favorites would be next to impossible for me, I have to admit. Maybe if we broke the list up into subcategories like Slapstick Comedy, Screwball Comedy, Romantic Comedy, Vulgar Comedy, etc… I might be able to narrow it down to 10 in each of them, but probably I don’t necessarily want to do that.

A radio program director once told me to be careful with comedy. He said, “Comedy is subjective. What you find funny may not be funny to me and vice versa”. Perhaps this is why some comedies do better at the box office than others. Think about it, how many times has someone come up to you and said, “Oh man! You have got to see (insert movie here)! It was the funniest thing I have ever seen!” ? So you take their advice and about 30 minutes in you are ready to walk out or turn it off. Comedy is subjective.

I am sure there will be more blogs about this topic, but for today, here is a look at two of my favorite ’70’s comedies….

Blazing Saddles

I was 4 years old when Blazing Saddles came out. It was 1974. Times were MUCH different that today. There were things in this movie that you simply could not do today! However, at the time, they were accepted. I don’t know how old I was when I first watched it. I do know that it had a great cast: Harvey Korman, Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little, Madeline Khan, David Huddleston, Slim Pickens, and director Mel Brooks, just to name a few.

One of the reasons this movie is funny to be is the absurdity of so many of the situations. The black sheriff who takes himself hostage, the townspeople who believe it, the grown adult who bathes with his squeaky toy frog, a phony toll booth in the middle of the desert, and of course, the characters crossing the bridge from movie to movie set, and eventually watching their own movie. “Extremes are funny” claimed, Manny Balos, one of my high school teachers. That is exemplified in this movie. How does a pie fight break out in a Western? Are Raisinets really the candy of choice for bad guys?

The one scene that is often talked about most when this film comes is is the campfire scene. Here, a bunch of cowboys are sitting around the fire, eating pork and beans. What follows is a bunch of them breaking wind in a symphony of flatulence. While this is not the first fart joke in a movie, it was certainly the first instance of audible flatulence to hit theaters. The conclusion of this scene contains one of my favorite lines in the film. Upon exiting his tent, Slim Pickens’ character begins to smell the results of the beans and starts waving his hat around to fan the odor away. He is asked if he wants some more beans, and he simply replies “I’d say you had enough!”

Smokey and the Bandit

I will always remember when I saw Smokey and the Bandit. August 16, 1977 – the day Elvis died. I saw it at the drive in and while we waiting for it to get dark enough for the movie to start, we were listening to AM 560 Honey Radio (where I would eventually work) and they broke the news and began playing all Elvis songs.

The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) and Snowman (Jerry Reed) are hired by Big and Little Enos to get 400 cases of Coors beer from Texas and bring it back to Atlanta in 28 hours for some big money. In the 1970s, Coors used to be unavailable east of the Mississippi (something to do with the fact that it wasn’t pasteurized and thus needed constant refrigeration).

Smokey is funnier to me now, than when I was 7. As a kid watching this movie, it was about fast cars, a hero trying to get away from the law, and numerous car crashes. Why is it funny to me now? Two words: Jackie Gleason. He plays Sheriff Buford T. Justice of Texas.

I had the chance to interview Jerry Reed shortly before he passed away and I asked him about this film. He said that without Jackie, there probably would not have been a Smokey and the Bandit. He told me how he was given free reign to stray from the “script” and ad-libbed almost everything. As a matter of fact, the word is that there really wasn’t much of a script anyway. Hal Needham showed Burt Reynolds the script on legal pads and most of the cast’s lines were ad-libs.

With mixing ad-libs with profanity, Jackie Gleason spouts off many of the films funniest lines. One such line that is often quoted by fans is when he is talking to his adult son, Junior (played by Mike Henry) – “There’s no way, no way, that you came from my loins. Soon as I get home, first thing I’m gonna do is punch yo mamma in da mouth!” Another line is when (after the roof of their patrol car is ripped off by driving under a truck) Junior is asked to hold Buford’s hat on his head. By removing his hand from his hat to hold Buford’s, his is blown away. “My hat blew off Daddy” to which Buford replies, “I hope your &^% #$% head was in it!”

What also makes this movie memorable is the soundtrack from Jerry Reed. Who doesn’t know “East Bound and Down”?! The song went to #2 on the charts and has been covered by many bands over the years. Many of today’s country singers will do it in their live sets today. The Legend, which is the song that opens the movie, gives you the back story on the Bandit and just how he became the legend he is today. “How would you like to be the dude who handcuffs a legend?” Snowman asks Bandit when he tells him he is unsure why Buford is chasing him. The Legend is one of those songs that is overlooked in my opinion.

There is one scene in particular that is my favorite, and that is the scene where Buford and Bandit meet face to face. What makes it great is that Buford has no idea that he is talking to the Bandit. Buford quickly walks in and says, “Lemme have a Diablo sandwich and a Dr. Pepper and make it fast, I’m in a %$# #$%^ hurry!” The exchange between the two characters is hilarious. How Burt Reynolds is able to keep a straight face while Jackie Gleason rants with food in his mouth is beyond me!

What is a Diablo Sandwich? Well it depends. Some say is a a pulled pork sandwich while others say it is ground beef. Personally, I have never had the pulled pork version of the sandwich, and have yet to find a recipe for that. I have however had it with beef. To wrap up the blog today – here is the recipe I found online for the Diablo Sandwich. It’s great to eat whether you’re in a hurry or not …

Diablo Sandwich Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 3/4 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup of canned corn
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • taco seasoning to taste
  • lettuce
  • sour cream
  • hamburger buns

Diablo Sandwich Recipe Directions:
Brown the ground beef. Add remaining ingredients except for lettuce, sour cream and hamburger buns. Let the mixture stew anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour. The longer the better. I cooked it for 40 minutes covered, and then uncovered for the remaining 20 minutes to thicken it up a bit as the liquid burns off. Place the lettuce on a bun, top with the El Diablo beef mixture, and then add a dollop of sour cream.

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