|Talking Tough, Walking Tall:
Hardboiled Action in the 1970s!!
The 1970s produced the pinnacle of a distinctive style of
lean, hard-edged crime/action movies, in the tradition of hardboiled film noir and pulp
fiction. A mixture of realism and a cynical nihilism that was a hangover from the imploded
1960s Flower Power/Vietnam era, the movies featured laconic, steely-eyed tough guys who
meant what they said if they said anything at all. They often talked with fists and
firearms and didn't wait for permission from some corrupt or namby-pamby authority figure
to validate their independent brand of problem-solving. Cop, private eye, gangster or
wandering loner (the roles were to some degree interchangeable), these icons writ large on
a gigantic movie screen tailored for an alienated public's vicarious fantasies and need of
catharsis. Prime terrain for these films was the decaying inner city: movies like DIRTY
HARRY, THE WARRIORS and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 defined the term "urban
jungle" (and occasionally inspired a media frenzy over gang-related violence at
theaters showing these and similar films). No self-respecting action hero appeared without
his or her own theme song, including such cooler-than-thou tracks as Lalo Schifrins
score for DIRTY HARRY, Isaac Hayes SHAFT, and John Carpenters own
spooky, do-it-yourself synth soundtrack for ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.
Although there are still exemplary action pictures made and released
today, movies like TRAINING DAY and NARC are the exception rather than the rule. From VANISHING
POINT to DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY to ACROSS 110th STREET
compare these to the lion's share of what passes for current action films
there's no homogenization, no catering to teen demographics, no gutting of content for a
PG rating, no over-reliance on bloated pyrotechnics, no effort to make every audience
member happy with broad spectrum political correctness. Although we've barely scratched
the surface in this rich vein of bygone guilty pleasures, there's more than enough
in-your-face, tough-talking, fists-flying, gutsy grittiness here to satisfy the most
demanding fan. Get ready to rumble!
Friday, November 5 7:00 PM
Richard Sarafian, Barry Newman &
Paul Koslo In Person!
VANISHING POINT, 1971, 20th
Century Fox, 97 min. Dir. Richard Sarafian. Ex-stock car driver and uncompromising
loner, Kowalski (Barry Newman) drives a turbo-charged white Dodge Challenger into
psychedelicized oblivion, pursued by an army of cops and naked motorcyclists. The great Cleavon
Little co-stars as "Super Soul," blind disc jockey and visionary madman of
the airwaves. Fasten your seatbelts. With Severn Darden, Dean Jagger, Paul Koslo. Discussion following with director Richard Sarafian and actors Barry
Newman and Paul Koslo.
Friday, November 5 9:30 PM
Don Siegel Double Header:
DIRTY HARRY, 1971, Warner Bros., 111
min. Director Don Siegel turns San Francisco, the 60s hippie mecca, into an
unforgettable 70s war zone of bank robbers and psycho-killers, governed only by the
long gun of the law in the form of magnum-toting Harry (Clint Eastwood). Shredding
red tape and civil liberties along the way, he goes up against demented, homicidal
lunatic, Scorpio (an unforgettable performance by Andrew Robinson). A master of
minimalism, packing the fiercest punch into the fewest moves, Siegel transformed the genre
film like no other American director. With Reni Santoni, Harry Guardino, John Vernon.
CHARLEY VARRICK, 1973,
Universal, 111 min. Many people who went to see this on its initial release were expecting
a genial Walther Matthau comedy. Instead they got this hard-as-nails, Don
Siegel-helmed thriller about a lone wolf master crook, Charley Varrick (Matthau in a
change-of-pace role), who robs a small-town bank unaware its full of Mafia money.
With riveting supporting performaces from a truly lethal Joe Don Baker, Andrew
Robinson, Sheree North, Felicia Farr.
Saturday, November 6 5:00 PM
THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE
TWO THREE, 1974, MGM/UA, 104 min. Dir. Joseph Sargent. Nerve-demolishing
suspense delivered at an intoxicating pace as merciless hijackers led by coldblooded Robert
Shaw take over an NYC subway and demand $1,000,000 in ransom. Hardboiled action
thrillers just dont get much better. With a sterling cast that includes Walter
Matthau, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo and Jerry Stiller, and a killer score by David
DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY, 1974,
20th Century Fox, 93 min. Dir. John Hough. Everybodys a
tough guy in this criminally-overlooked thrill ride of a chase movie. Callous heist man
Larry (Peter Fonda) and reluctant partner Deke (Adam Roarke) knock over a
supermarket payroll then take off in their souped-up Dodge Charger with Fonda's white
trash squeeze, Mary (Susan George). Soon, ruthlessly hardnosed sheriff Everett (Vic
Morrow) is dogging their trail. A wild cinematic rollercoaster with one of the most
unexpectedly twisted finales this side of VANISHING POINT. Co-starring Roddy McDowall,
Saturday, November 6 9:15 PM
SHAFT, 1971, MGM (Warner Bros.), 100 min.
Dir. Gordon Parks. "Whos da man?!" Why Richard Roundtree, of
course, as leather-clad NYC private eye, John Shaft, in this groundbreaking cinematic hymn
to a new kind of urban hero. Shaft doesnt take lip from anyone black
militants, cops, the Harlem mob or white gangsters when he reluctantly rescues the
daughter of crime boss Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn) from the Mafia. Punctuated by Isaac
Hayes awesome, percolating score (his "Theme From Shaft" won the 1971
Oscar for Best Song). Shaft, hes one bad mutha shut your mouth!
ACROSS 110th STREET,
1972, MGM/UA, 102 min. Gritty, brutally realistic saga of small time hoods heisting
$300,000 from the Mafia and igniting a gang war in Harlem that threatens to engulf New
York. Short-fused, bigoted Mattelli (Anthony Quinn) and straight arrow Pope (Yaphet
Kotto) are the at-odds police detectives out to stop the chaos. Fast-moving,
no-nonsense direction from Barry Shear (WILD IN THE STREETS) in down-and-dirty Big
Apple locations make this an unrelentingly hardboiled ride through the 1970s urban
inferno. With able support from Anthony Franciosa, Paul Benjamin, Richard Ward, Antonio
Fargas and that great theme song by Bobby Womack!
Sunday, November 7 5:00 PM
New 35mm Print!! THE
LONGEST YARD, 1974, Paramount, 121 min. One of director Robert
Aldrichs foulest, funniest films pits former pro quaterback Burt Reynolds
and his team of convicts against a sadistic squad of prison guards led by Ed Lauter
and double-crossing warden Eddie Albert. A college football star, Aldrich obviously
took great pleasure in setting up the films bone-crunching game sequences. Remade
recently as THE MEAN MACHINE (2001), its now being remade again for 2005 release
with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock! "Im a football nut
would have done
the picture for nothing fortunately they didnt know that at Paramount!"
Robert Aldrich Discussion following with actor Ed Lauter.
Sunday, November 7 7:30 PM
Double Feature Walter Hill and
Joseph Kaufman In Person!
THE WARRIORS, 1979, Paramount, 93 min.
One of director Walter Hills finest films assumes a dark, comic book style,
following the Coney Island Warriors as they run for their lives after being fingered for
the murder of a peacemaking gang leader. The gangbangers brave a gauntlet of ghetto booby
traps, unseen marauders, unsympathetic cops and rabid, teen NYC wolfpacks as they try to
reach safe home turf. Tough-talking Michael Beck, James Remar and Deborah Van Valkenburgh
lead a snarling young cast.
ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13,
1976, CKK Corp., 90 min. Dir. John Carpenter. This stark
modern homage to Howard Hawks RIO BRAVO updates the action with a youth gang
attacking a closing police station in a blighted ghetto neighborhood. Rapid-fire banter
flies fast and furious between charismatic convict Darwin Joston and policewoman Laurie
Zimmer as the faceless, virtually supernatural marauders attack. This remains one of
Carpenters most effective pictures, an edge-of-your-seat thriller that put him on
the map as an imaginative, creative force to be reckoned with. With Austin Stoker. Discussion between films with THE WARRIORS director Walter Hill and
PRECINCT 13 producer Joseph Kaufman.