I've been watching a lot of Seventies fare lately, and have discovered some real gems and the occasional dud ("The Seven-Ups," a limp attempt to carry on the "French Connection" franchise with a tragically wasted Roy Scheider, comes to mind).

I'll start off the "gems" discussion with "Straight Time," a 1978 film starring Dustin Hoffman as an ex-con named Max Dembo who has some muddled good intentions of going straight after being released from prison. But he's a lifelong criminal, and he knows no other way, and the movie perfectly captures the slow slide into his inevitable regression (aided in large part by a slightly sadistic parole officer played by the great M. Emmet Walsh). It's just a great moody but never stilted character study of a career criminal, with plenty of action and a first-rate supporting cast (a VERY young Theresa Russell as Dembo's girlfriend and Harry Dean Stanton as his holdup partner). And I love the film score by David Shire, who did really memorable work on the original "The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three.") All that, and great use of Los Angeles and surrounding environs as supporting characters themselves.

Why "Straight Time" failed at the box office, and faded from memory, is a real mystery to me. Hoffman was huger than huge at the time, coming off the hits "All The President's Men" and "Marathon Man," and heading into another smash in "Kramer Vs. Kramer.") All I can think is that a) the studio didn't have faith in it and thus didn't promote or distribute it with much enthusiasm; or b) audiences at the time had different expectations of Hoffman. What those would be, I can't imagine, given their willingness to accept his character in "Papillon." Go figure.

Any thoughts about "Straight Time"? And what would you add to the list?

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THE STONE KILLER was another Bronson film in between THE MECHANIC and DEATH WISH.

Saw, for the first time, "Klute" (1971). I wasn't very impressed. Jane Fonda won the Best Actress award for that. Maybe it's my jaded contemporary sensibility at work, but I think it was less the performance than the idea that a "name" actress would play an unrepentant prostitute (though the character wound up being less of a breakthrough and more of a classic 'hooker with a heart of gold" type). That must have been considered as revolutionary and controversial in 1971 Hollywood as the wife-swapping of "Bob And Ted And Carol And Alice" was a few years earlier. Maybe I've just never cared for Fonda's flinty, abrasive voice. Donald Sutherland barely registered, and the ending was underwhelming, smacking of tiresome old-school melodrama. (How did Sutherland's character know where to be at the right moment?) Alan J. Pakula was a fine director, but I'm not sure he had really good material to work with.

 

Interesting that Jane Fonda basically went back to the same well to play pretty much the same character, just 15 years older and more jaded, in "The Morning After" (1986), with Jeff Bridges stepping in to play the Sutherland role to similarly nonpareil effect. And she got a Best Actress Oscar nomination for that, I believe.

I haven't seen Klute in a long time, but as I look back from my present perspective, I think she conveyed the complicated feelings of a prostitute for her clients pretty well. It was a combination of pity, contempt and sometimes grudging affection.

How about The Conversation (1974) with Gene Hackman and John Cazale? A creepy vision of a crime that may or may not have happened. And you get to see Hackman honk on his saxophone, too.

Speaking of John Cazale, when did Dog Day Afternoon come out? I loved the craziness of that one.

Dog Day Afternoon came out in 1975.

I loved it too. Especially Pacino coming out and yelling ATTICA!!  Great movie.

Another good 70's crime movie is Blue Collar with Richard Pryor and Harvey Kietel. Auto plant workers rob their union.

 

The Pope of Greenwich Village is also pretty good, but I think it was in the 80's. Also a blue collar robbery, a trucking company.

 

Underrated?  How about totally out of the box and unknown.  Ever see the Speghetti "western" The Hell Benders.  It involves a heist and requires the characters to keep up a major con through most of the movie.  Worth a watch.

 

Stuart Matthew Davis

www.fiveaweekfiction.blogspot.com

 

THE YAKUZA (1975).  Robert Mitchum and Richard Jordan.  Directed by Sydney Pollack.

I love 70s films and I only learned about this great movie last year.

 

PRIME CUT (1972).  Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman. 

A movie that could only have been made in the 70s.

 

Stephen

 

The YAKUZA, yes! Love Robert Mitchum. His 40s noir films are fantastic, especially Out of the Past.

Susan

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