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Scott Roberts
Re: 1970's Cinema
on Dec 5, 2013 at 11:42:59 pm

This thread has been a great read, to start things off. And I will be the third person here to recommend Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. It's awesome. I read it about 7 years ago and plan on one day reading it again. I think they made a documentary based off of it too, but I haven't watched it. Just read the book.

Hmmm... I don't know how much more I can add that hasn't already been said (especially as nicely has Tim's posts). Maybe for all you Walking Dead fans, you should remember your roots, and check out George Romero's classic zombie sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978). Very 70s, and full of slow walkin' zombies. Zach Snyder's remake wasn't that bad either.

Oh I know what no one has mentioned yet! Animation! I actually took a class in film school called American Cinema 1967-1980, and for my final paper I wrote about a personal oddball hero of mine, Ralph Bakshi. He spit out a nice handful of very crude, very weird animated films in the 70s. He did some great things mixing hand-drawn animation with live action footage, and was known for doing many sequences with heavy rotoscoping, which I imagined took even longer back then than it does today. None of these films stand that well to the test of time, unless you're looking at them in a very abstract way, or if you're super drunk or something...

The first film he made was Fritz the Cat (1972). It was based off the Robert Crumb comics. Crumb apparently *hated* the film adaptation of his work, as I learned from the documentary about him (Crumb). Fritz, the movie, was super weird; yet touched on a lot of the racial and political issues of the time. He's just a jive talkin' cat, man! (ok, I'll never say that again). I do believe it's also the first animated film to get an X rating, so I wouldn't watch it with your family if I were you (I couldn't even find a trailer on youtube that was remotely PG enough to put in this post). It has ended up (over time) grossing $190 million worldwide off of an original $850,000 budget. It was the 10th highest grossing film of '72 at the domestic box office. Not too shabby if you ask me.



His next film, Heavy Traffic (1973), is my favorite Bakshi film. It's about a young cartoonist/unemployed person named Michael Corleone (subtle Godfather reference, am I right?), who simply wanders New York and has a bunch of trippy experiences. I love gritty New York 70s movies so much, and this is probably the only animated film ever to capture the same gritty NYC as the live action ones. Actually, Heavy Traffic is probably *the* scummiest representation of 1970s New York. It's almost impossible to describe this movie, and just how many *different* bizarre things happen in it, but if you want to see some funky cartoons, check it out. It also liberally uses the the song "Scarborough Fair" throughout it, which is nice. I find it funny/awesome that Heavy Traffic was actually a semi box office success. I don't see anything this weird being released to success in theaters nowadays.








His next movie, Coonskin (1975)[No, I did not feel comfortable writing that title, but hey, it's the title...] was a blaxsploitation cartoon version/parody of Song of the South. It's not something I would recommend to most people, but it has a cult following and offers up a lot of the same crazy Bakshi racial issues relayed through a talking cartoon bunny named Brother Rabbit. There are live action sequences intercut throughout it starring Scatman Crothers as the Uncle Remus type guy. Considering this is a satirical work, I'd probably say it has less blatant racism than Song of the South? Regardless, it was a highly controversial film, and was run out of theaters due to its controversial themes.

(this trailer for the remastered version has one second of animated nudity, so if you're very opposed to seeing that, don't watch)








Next up, Wizards (1977), was a fantasy film about an evil Wizard who discovers old footage of Nazi propaganda and uses the imagery and technology to attempt to destroy a new generation of people. It's also a weird movie. All of these are weird. I was surprised to see a special edition blu-ray edition of Wizards right in the new release section of Best Buy the other week, right next to Man of Steel. Almost picked it up, but I figured I'll get by with just the DVD version for now.








Lastly (for the 70s) he made The Lord of the Rings animated film (1978). It was great watching this *after* seeing the Peter Jackson version. It's a possible must view for any Lord of the Rings fan, even if you just watch it as a laugh. It has a lot of interesting ideas and imagery, some of which were homaged in the live action version we've all seen. It's only half the story though, it ends at Helm's Deep. Bakshi never made the sequel because he felt like adapting other people's work wasn't doing much for him, and some other studio made a barely-seen animated version of Return of the King. And like almost all of Bakshi's early work, it was profitable, as it made $30 million off a $4 million budget. Which is, ya know, like a fraction of Peter Jackson's numbers.







After the 70s, Bakshi had a few more decent films, like American Pop in 1981; an episodic chronicle of musicians throughout the 20th century (and it ends in a crazy synthesized music video!). Also maybe you remember Cool World (1992) starring a not-quite-famous-yet Brad Pitt? That was also Bakshi. This year, he successfully Kickstarted his newest project in February, The Last Days of Coney Island, which looks like it will go back to his early, more urban roots; and I hope it actually gets completed one day so I can enjoy it!


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