by Joel G. Robertson
At the end of this post, I’ll announce the winners of the first ever Insanely Difficult, Damn-Near-Impossible Movie Trivia Challenge. But first, we’ll be talking about 6 more movies you must see before you find yourself doing the poor man’s Limbo (How low can you go? Six feet low…). This week I’m recommending movies from the year 1978. I was a wee lad in the late-70s, but so many movies from that decade influenced me and my movie watching habits. One movie and the filmmaker who made it had a MAJOR impact on my life. That movie was Halloween written and directed by master filmmaker John Carpenter.
But Halloween is NOT on the list.
Nope. I’m going to assume you’ve already seen it (I refuse to admit that there’s an entire generation who’s only seen that celluloid abortion of a remake), and thus, it’s not included. However, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading immediately, bookmark this post, and get your butt down to your local Video Hut, Armchair Theater, or for those living in 2010, Netflix or Blockbuster Online and watch it! RIGHT! NOW!
After all, you never know when an errant Vespa, wedged snugly between the overflowing fat sacks of its owner, will jump a curb, leaving little more of you than a red stain smeared across the side of your neighborhood Wally-mart.
So, here are my picks for the 6 movies from 1978 you must see before you die:
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: The classic comedy about oversized tomatoes running amok. Really not too much else to say regarding the plot. Its classic theme-song will stick in your head long after you’ve turned the movie off. No, seriously; you may go a little nuts when you find yourself humming that God-forsaken tune days later… Interesting trivia note: George Clooney starred in the equally bad, but far less charming sequel Return of the Killer Tomatoes in 1988.
Magic: I’m actually including this in the “drama” category. But isn’t it about a killer ventriloquist dummy and his owner? Not exactly. Directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Anthony Hopkins, Burgess Meredith, and Ann-Margaret, Magic was written by William Goldman, one of the greatest writers in the biz. He gave us Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride, and Misery.
In Magic, Goldman tells the story of Corky (Anthony Hopkins) a struggling magician and ventriloquist who may or may not be suffering from mental illness (and with a name like Corky, who could blame him). He’s been hearing the voice of his dummy, Fats (Fats? What the hell kinda name is Fats? Okay Goldman was obviously going through a rough patch when naming his characters in this one) Fats tells Corky to do things. Bad things. This is less a horror film than a psycho-thriller character study. Hopkins is pathetically creepy, but it’s that damn dummy that unnerves you. Man, those things are just wrong…
Convoy: For our ’78 action entry we have this classic trucker flick from director Sam Peckinpah. I love Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs and The Wild Bunch, but I have to confess I’ve never seen this one. I know it was inspired by a C.W. McCall country song of the same name and that it spawned the use of CB radios by kids in the suburbs.
Convoy stars Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw, Ernest Borgnine, and Burt Young. Kristofferson plays a trucker who runs afoul of Borgnine’s corrupt sheriff and then the movie becomes one long car chase. But it’s Peckinpah, so I gotta believe there’s more to it than that. It’s interesting to note that this movie came out the year after Smokey and the Bandit, and it’s a definite must see if for no other reason than its cultural influence on late-70s America.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: A remake, but a damn good one. I always found this version colder, creepier, and more believable than its classic 1956 paranoid predecessor. Directed by Phillip Kaufman, it stars Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright and Leonard Nimoy.
The story is simple enough. An alien species replicates humans, creating emotionless clones in their place. The idea of our loved ones changing overnight, making us feel alien in familiar surroundings is an old one and no doubt rooted in some deep-seated childhood fear of parental abandonment. A cool bit of trivia is that both Kevin McCarthy and Don Siegel (star and director of the original respectively) have cameos in the film.
Superman: The Movie: I chose Superman as the family film you must see because compared to most superhero movies of today it’s pretty tame. Also, I think most kids will like it even though the effects aren’t “picture perfect”. Personally, I think that’s part of its charm. Everything’s too perfect in movies today. There’s little chance for missteps from a technological perspective. Before the onslaught of CGI, when craftsman had to find creative ways to sell an effect they often failed, but when they pulled it off it was magic.
This film tells Superman’s origin story and has some great moments like the waterfall scene. It also introduced film audiences to Christopher Reeve, who had great chemistry with co-star Margot Kidder. There are two other reasons this movie is a must see: John Williams iconic score and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. Hackman makes any movie he ever appeared in a must see. However, despite this film’s “classic” status, I actually prefer Superman 2 with all its Terence Stamp as General Zod goodness (plus, don’t you just love that part at the end when Supes goes back to the dive bar and teaches that redneck a lesson in Super-respect?)
Dawn of the Dead: It pains me to include Dawn of the Dead on this list. Not because I don’t like it or that it’s not a must see. Quite the contrary. It’s one of my all-time favorite horror films. People like to talk about the social commentary in Romero’s films and while it’s there in all of them Dawn is the perfect balance of satire and horror.
So, why am I including it? Well, I’m surprised by how many film fans haven’t seen it. Sure, they know what it’s about. They’ve seen clips, read articles, or caught it on TV. But many, especially newcomers to the horror genre, haven’t taken in the Monroeville Mall in all its gory glory. And what with the remake, which wasn’t awful except for one teeny, tiny detail—ZOMBIES DON’T RUN DAMN IT!—I think it’s important to keep championing the original so it doesn’t become a “forgotten” flick.
So, if you haven’t seen any of these films I urge you to do so, ‘cause you never know when Orca the Vespa driving road-tard is coming your way… Also, be sure to tell us in the comments section what movies from 1978 you think everyone should see.
And now for something completely different:
The first ever winners of the new Insanely Difficult, Damn-Near-Impossible Movie Trivia Challenge (courtesy of the movie-word quiz master himself, Dale Lloyd) are:
Trivia (Beast)Master: @Peter_Nielsen (he was the first to submit all the correct answers)
Trivia Warrior: @LeonMichael
This week they have total bragging rights and can rub the noses of lesser movie mortals in the poo of their amazing cinematic knowledge. Also, they’ll have their names entered into a prize drawing that will take place on 11/30. The movie-related prize will be announced on the day of the drawing.
So, until next time, remember, a flick is only forgotten if you’re not talking about it!