1978 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies I’ve seen released theatrically in 1978.

1. Days of Heaven, directed by Terrence Mallick (10/10)

I fight with myself over whether it is this or Chinatown which is the greatest American movie of the ’70s. (I guess I’d have to throw a few others in that conversation, too.) I wish I had something eloquent to say about this right now, but I don’t. Just see it.

2. A Wedding, directed by Robert Altman (10/10)

I feel like this should be obligatory watching for every bride-to-be (and their mothers) and especially all those insane women on TV who are obsessed with their perfect weddings. It’s called Life, it happens.

3. The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorsese (10/10)

This is incredible access, which is probably why it’s so fascinating. There’s so much to see here. Certainly a candidate for greatest concert movie ever.

4. In a Year of 13 Moons, directed by Ranier Werner Fassbinder (9/10)

Now, I cannot relate to the protagonist. I simply cannot. I don’t understand that stuff at all. And I don’t sympathize with the astrological stuff. But that doesn’t matter. Fassbinder blows my mind. His direction is just insane. That one scene in the slaughterhouse is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen anywhere. He just flat out knows how to direct. I mean, this movie is just indescribable.

5. Gates of Heaven, directed by Errol Morris (9/10)

Morris instantly established himself as one of the (if not the) great American documentarians with this movie. It has everything we’ve come to know and love from him: seemingly simple subjects become profound when put together in his unique style, his subjects are always treated with the utmost dignity by his simple shots, and so forth. Though this is supposedly just about a pet cemetery, it’s really about how society copes with death, and it’s a wonderful reflection on it.

6. Autumn Sonata, directed by Ingmar Bergman (9/10)

I feel like this is typical late ’70s Bergman (not that I would know): a devastatingly frank examination of emotional trauma with few characters, few frills – there is music but no soundtrack, as it were – and literally nowhere for the audience to hide.

This was also Ingrid Bergman’s final feature film and, I believe, her first Swedish film in decades. I didn’t recognize her in the role which both speaks to her ability here and the fact that I’ve never seen her in anything where she was this old.

As with so many other (Ingmar) Bergman films, this mostly rests on Ullman’s ability to convince you that you are not seeing a performance, but something real. She is fantastic, as always.

There’s not much for me to say here: this is another excellent examination of unhappy people and how they perpetuate their unhappiness on others without realizing it. It’s his specialty. Well, one of them.

7. The Deer Hunter, directed by Michael Cimono (9*/10)

Seen multiple times as a teen. I don’t as yet have an opinion as an adult.

8. Halloween, directed by John Carpenter (8/10)

Iconic and significant.

9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Philip Kaufman (8/10)

This is a shockingly decent remake of perhaps my favourite ’50s film. In fact, there are times when I think it might have improved upon it. (Okay it does with the ending, if nothing more.) Sometimes 8 feels too low.

10. Interiors, directed by Woody Allen (8/10)

Interiors is quite a good movie. Allen’s script is generally good. (And fairly free from his typical rants, though not entirely…all the characters are still heavily neurotic…they’re just not so Jewish comedian-neurotic, which is good.)

And the film feels pretty true to life. A few scenes in particular – such as when the two oldest daughters first meet their future step-mom – are quite accurate and extremely uncomfortable (which is a good thing).

The shots are very interesting, especially how he sets up the end throughout the film. (I won’t say how, just to be nice.) but a few of them reek of “I’ve been watching far too much Bergman lately” and seem unnecessary. Pretension can work, but it doesn’t always, especially if the person putting on the pretense is not fully capable of getting away with it.

I suggest this that is one of the few problems with this film. Allen, at this point, was not quite as good as he would soon be at being artsy. (The opening few shots don’t work for me.)

One thing may be that, in his later “art” films, he retained his sense of humour. It’s barely visible in this movie, and I guess what I’m trying to say is that his sense of humour is what really makes Husbands and Wives, Hannah and her Sisters and, especially – what I consider his best film and one of the great films – Crimes and Misdemeanors. You can accept the pretension because he’s so funny and observant.

In Interiors it seems, sometimes, more like unnecessary homage. But, I did like this film a lot. I shouldn’t be so critical. It certainly is far better than it’s reputation suggests. (Apparently some people think it’s terrible, maybe because it signals the break from the “earlier, funnier” Woody Allen that some people feel is the only worthwhile Allen.)

All in all, very worthwhile seeing – though you need to be in the right mood, it could be quite depressing if you’re not. And yet another example of how Allen used to be an extremely significant and great filmmaker before he made all those other movies. [Note: I wrote this before he redeemed himself in the early 21st century. And I also wrote this before I took the allegations of sexual abuse seriously.]

11. Vertical Features Remake, directed by Peter Greenaway (8/10)

Unfortunately I did not write down my thoughts at this time. It’s prophetic though.

12. Coming Home, directed by Hal Ashby (8*/10)

Seen a long time ago.

13. Superman, directed by Richard Donner (8*/10)

Seen as a teen.

14. Animal House, directed by Ivan Reitman (8*/10)

I cannot be objective about this film in any way, shape or form but it has dated rather poorly, or I’m getting old.

15. Dawn of the Dead, directed by George Romero (7/10)

I think that I prefer the remake (shock, horror). That being said, this is still probably the second most significant zombie film.

16. Midnight Express, directed by Alan Parker (7/10)

I feel like this is a good director away from a great movie.

17. Blue Collar, directed by Paul Schrader (7/10)

I know I wrote a review for this. I remember it. Alas it is gone, like so many of the reviews I posted on zip.ca. So I think the main thing keeping this movie from greatness is the direction. To me, Schrader is almost always better as just a screenwriter. He doesn’t have a great feel for the camera. The ending of this film is a particularly good example of something he likes that just doesn’t work.

18. Comes a Horseman, directed by Alan J. Pakula (7/10)

This is a fairly by the books western not particularly concerned with being unconventional. The story is fine and the acting is pretty good. The biggest issue, above and beyond anything else, is the score. The score sounds like it is out of the ’50s: there are big bold emotional cues, as if the audience couldn’t figure out how to feel on their own. There is also one particular shot in the climax which really makes no sense in the light of the rest of the style of the film. But it’s pretty decent.

19. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, directed by John De Bello (7/10)

I watched this movie multiple times in my tweens and teens but didn’t really remember it (except, maybe, the final charge). Then, many years later I watched the sequel – I don’t remember whether or not I had seen it before. I loved the sequel. I don’t know that I would today, but for whatever reason, I loved it that particular day.

Without re-watching the sequel, I do feel like it’s probably the better movie. But that being said: this is an unbelievably stupid and great movie, that is just such a mess but so happy that it is. The movie mocks numerous conventions and celebrates the dumbness of its premise and the dumbness of numerous movies that inspired it.

It’s a mess, really, but it’s a glorious, dumb mess that is utterly enjoyable if you go in with the understanding that this movie is about deadly tomatoes (and that it was made with a tiny budget) with zero regard for sense and the willingness to commit to any joke, no matter how cheesy.

Hopefully the sequel is really is as great as I remember it, but this is fun too.

20. Death on the Nile, directed by John Guillermin (6/10)

A little too campy for its own good, perhaps. Read the review of Death on the Nile.

21. The First Great Train Robbery, directed by Michael Creighton (6/10)

On the whole, this is surprisingly good for a movie directed by an author. Many of the action sequences are drawn out in order to be realistic, making things very tense. I quite liked it until the end which he (or his financial backers) totally changes from the book to give something audiences would supposedly like better.


22. The Brinks Job, directed by William Friedkin (6/10)

This is an unconventional heist film that focuses as much (or more) on the amusing aspects of a bunch of “losers” robbing The Brinks Company. There’s a lot of comedy and the problem with the film is that, at times, it feels like it is focusing more on the amusement than the planning of the heist – normally a key component in these films – and the tension during the heist (of which there is basically only two moments).

It’s an odd approach and I wonder what the screenwriter had in mind. Honestly, the wikipedia entry makes the real story sound more interesting than the film, which is not good.

That being said, it was still amusing and decent enough for its era (though it has dated rather horribly). The Sting it ain’t, though.

23. Fingers, directed by James Toback (5/10)

This is one of those rare films where I prefer the remake.

24. Martin, directed by George A. Romero (5/10)

Lost my review, but I think it dated poorly.

25. Game of Death, directed by Robert Clouse (4*/10)

Seen as a teen.

26. I Wanna Hold Your Hand, directed by Robert Zemeckis (4*/10)

4 feels charitable at this remove (a couple years).

27. Revenge of the Pink Panther, directed by Blake Edwards (4*/10)

There is no defending this rating.

28. The Wiz, directed by Sidney Lumet (2/10)

An absolute disaster.

29. The Tooxbox Murders, directed by Dennis Donnelly (1/10)

This movie is so bad it can’t even stick to it’s title.

30. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, directed by Michael Schultz (1/10)

This is very much deserving of its reputation as one of the worst movies of all time.