1976 in Movies

Movie reviews I’ve written for movies released theatrically in 1976.

1. La batalla de Chile: La lucha de un pueblo sin armas – Segunda parte: El golpe de estado, directed by Patricio Guzman (10/10)

Part two of one of the greatest documentaries of the 20th century. Read my review of La batalla de Chile:.

1. The Missouri Breaks, directed by Arthur Penn (10/10)

This is a notorious bomb. The first time I saw it I thought it was the greatest western I had ever seen. I have revised my opinion since watching it again: it is still one of the best westerns of all time, just maybe not the greatest. Why?

Revisionism – with the exception of McCabe and Mrs. Miller – only went so far with westerns. We got ambiguous heroes and bad guys, but the violence escalated to knew heights: so one fakery was traded in for another. This film seeks to rectify that. Brando’s character is what Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” (aka “Joe” aka “Manco” aka “Blondie”) would eventually turn into after he killed so many people. Nicholson’s character is the flip-side of that: the seeming amateur who in other revisionist westerns would somehow know exactly how to kill people when the time came (and who would be called on to defend the town, too). The film’s violence is confined to moments, unlike the spaghetti westerns and their successors. It is still graphic, and all the more appalling for its brevity, but it isn’t as widespread as in most revisionist westerns.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

1. Network, directed by Sidney Lumet (10/10)

I have seen this movie way too many times to be objective about it. Still shockingly prophetic, though.

4. All the President’s Men, directed by Alan Pakula (10/10)

I feel like I have underrated this movie over the years. It wasn’t as sexy as The Parallax View when I was younger. An absolute classic. A must-see.

5. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, directed by John Cassavettes (10/10)

It takes place over a short amount of time, compared to most movies, and yet this time is drawn out. There are scenes of incredible tension like few other ’70s movies, and then there are scenes with the worst strip-club act ever filmed that seem to go on forever. Gazzara is his usual excellent self (similar role to Saint Jack, me thinks). I’m really almost at a loss for words. It haunts my dreams. It’s incredible, even though the story is pretty straightforward.

6. Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese (10*/10)

Seen as a teen.

7. Ansikte mot ansikte aka Face to Face, directed by Ingmar Bergman (9/10)

This an attempt to show the toll of mental illness at a time when such things were relatively rare. It uses some conventions of a horror movie, which is a neat trick.

The film has dated somewhat, I feel like, but it’s still more successful than something such as the equally acclaimed Cassavetes film A Woman Under the Influence.

And though I think we’ve gotten a lot better at depicting mental illness on screen, this was a daring, provocative film at the time, that features one of Liv Ullman’s greatest performances.

8. Murder by Death, directed by Robert Moore (8*/10)

I cannot have an objective opinion about this movie. Obviously after seeing The Last of Sheila I sort of had to downgrade my love of what is in many ways the same thing. [Not really.] But it’s still pretty awesome. It still makes me laugh. I just gave my brother the tape. I am crying on the inside.

9. The Shootist, directed by Don Siegel (8/10)

Sort of a calmer, safer, less offensive Wild Bunch. It deals with the same issues, but for one man, instead of many, and a little more from the perspective of the society that surrounds him. Using old Wayne films in the intro seems like a tired gimmick now but was probably pretty revolutionary at the time. I’m not sure it works with the narration and excessive screen titles, but whatever.

This is a well-acted and designed film that really doesn’t come alive until the climax. The climax redeems a lot of the western cliches that worked their way into the majority of the film. Again, it’s the Wild Bunch in a different light, but with the same message: the time for this kind of violence is over, but that doesn’t mean violence will stop begetting violence, that doesn’t mean humans still aren’t prone to it.

The final actions of Ron Howard’s character save the film from being a waltz down memory lane with the Duke.

10. Marathon Man, directed by John Schlesinger (8*/10)

Seen as a teen.

11. Die grosse Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner, directed by Werner Herzog (8/10)

So this is basically a short, but whatever. Herzog focuses on this guy’s woodcarving as some kind of allegory for his ski jumping.

12. Heart of Glass, directed by Werner Herzog (7/10)

I don’t really know where to begin. This is…bizarre.

It’s beautiful to look at. And the idea of trying to hypnotize the audience through those images – I don’t know what was with the film quality, whether deliberate or not – in order to watch hypnotized actors is…interesting.

I don’t think I really understand it, so I have a hard time judging it one way or the other. As usual with Werner, it’s unique, and it’s impossible to dismiss.

13. Ai no corrida aka In the Realm of the Senses, directed by Nagisa Oshima (7/10)

I can’t really make up my mind about this. It is very arty porn, but if it’s porn, then it can’t be art, and vice versa. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate it, but there’s still a lot of sex for the supposed point.

I think if this film were less insular it might be better. I think that’s why I prefer Last Tango‘s take on this area. However, we need the insularity to understand her act, so I guess we’re stuck with it.

I don’t really know what to make of it yet. I still can’t believe it’s based on a true story.

14. The Front, directed by Martin Ritt (7*/10)

Seen as a teen.

15. Logan’s Run, directed by Michael Anderson (7/10)

This has dated pretty badly, but it’s still worth seeing.

16. The Eagle Has Landed, directed by John Sturges (7*/10)

Seen as a teen.

17. Carrie, directed by Brian De Palma (7*/10)

Seen as a teen.

18. Rocky, directed by Sylvester Stallone (7*/10)

I have a burr up my ass about this. I cannot be objective. I am sorry.

19. Silent Movie, directed by Mel Brooks (6*/10)

Seen before I’d seen more than a couple silent films. I think I still enjoyed it.

20. Raid on Entebbe, directed by Irvin Kershner (6/10)

This is quite well done for a TV movie.

21. The Omen, directed by Richard Donner (6*/10)

Seen as a teen.

22. The Outlaw Josey Wales, directed by Clint Eastwood (6*/10)

Seen during the height of my Eastwood phase.

23. Buffalo Bill and the Indians, directed by Robert Altman (6/10)

I remember this being not quite funny enough.

24. How much Wood would a Woodchuck chuck…Beobachtungen zu einer neuen Sprache, directed by Werner Herzog (6/10)

An interesting but slightly incoherent documentary about auctioneering.

25. The Pink Panther Strikes Again, directed by Blake Edwards (6*/10)

An utterly indefensible rating from my youth.

26. Martin, directed by George Romero (6/10)

This is a somewhat interesting attempt at revisionist vampire film. It might have worked, had Romero found a collaborator. With the exception of his one great film, I find Romero could benefit from some script help in his movies.

Here, the best part is usually the score / sound design.

The concept is solid (he often has a solid concept) but the execution flat-out sucks. I wish the man worked with other people, because this could have been great. Here’s hoping somebody’s inspired to do a revisionist vampire movie along these lines that’s actually good.

27. Assault on Precinct 13, directed by John Carpenter (5/10)

I have lost my review of this remake of Rio Bravo. It is a pretty silly movie.

28. Family Plot, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (5*/10)

Seen during my Hitchcock phase and even then I didn’t like it.

29. The Enforcer, directed by James Fargo (5*/10)

Seen during my Eastwood phase.

30. Midway, directed by Jack Smight (4/10)

If the Longest Day is a class on how to make this type of movie, Midway is a class on how not to make it.

31. Lipstick, directed by Lamont Johnson (4/10)

They mean well…I think. It’s hard to know, as this has all the hallmarks of your average exploitation film, at least production values-wise.

  • The acting is pretty mediocre.
  • The plot device at the end is moronic.

But it’s not awful. It just thinks it’s a serious movie. It’s not. Sarandon takes things seriously. I don’t know.

Don’t watch it. It’s really not much of anything.

32. The Song Remains the Same, directed by Peter Clifton, Joe Massot (3/10)

Buy the album. And dear rock bands, dream sequences are bad, umkay.

33. At the Earth’s Core, directed by Kevin Connor (3/10)

A very dumb movie, but funny dumb. Read the review of At the Earth’s Core.

34. The Food of the Gods, directed by Bert I. Gordon (3/10)

The idea is somewhat sound. I mean, in the right hands a fairly ridiculous Wells plot could be pulled off. But these guys aren’t the right people. There are loads of problems.

  • The script is ridiculous.
  • Nobody regards these giant animals as anything truly remarkable or anything to be concerned about. After being attacked by a giant chicken (a giant chicken!) the hero is pretty nonchalant. It takes him about a minute to figure out exactly what’s going on. Then he leaves, because it’s not a very big deal. (Until the coroner tells him about the wasps…wasps are definitely scarier!)
  • Then there’s the direction and the special effects. The effects have dated badly (if they even worked then). The direction is pretty weak. Establishing shots aren’t even shot from the correct places.

It’s a mess. It’s funny though, at least some of the time, so maybe see it for that.