Sunday, June 29, 2014

1977: The Best

Finishing the year off with another ten greats.

10. Smokey and the Bandit

By sheer force of will and thanks to a certain freshness in the material, this ended up being one of the better films of the year.  Burt Reynolds' first film with Hal Needham as director is a good-natured, admittedly stupid movie that benefits from an easygoing Reynolds performance and, a relatively charming one from Sally Field and an absolute work of comic brilliance from Jackie Gleason as a Texas lawman out to get Bandit (Reynolds) because his son's would be fiance (Field) as run out on the wedding and coincidentally hopped into Burt's Trans-Am.  There's nothing deep to be found here, just an honest good time.

9. Dot and the Kangaroo

This is one I loved as a kid and even today, it's still pretty damn great.  A wonderful mix of animation with live action, this is a terrific (though understandably dated) family film about a little Australian girl lost in the Outback who is protected by a red kangaroo.  Intended as a way to introduce kids to the eclectic wildlife Australia has to offer (since it is for kids, no mention of how just about everything there can be utterly lethal), this has some beautiful cinematography and some good songs (the song about the mythical Bunyip always creeped me out as a kid).  Dot and the Kangaroo is just one of those films that tells a simple story and works beautifully.

8. Suspiria

And from a lovingly rendered kids movie, we now examine one of the best horror movies Dario Argento ever made. I am nothing if not a man of eclectic tastes.  Just as well made as the previous film on the list, Suspiria is a wonderfully creepy supernatural slasher film about murders at a dance academy that tie in with an ancient coven of witches.  Argento directs with his usual style, the score by Goblin is quite good and there are some very good sequences of horror throughout.

7. The Duellists

Ridley Scott's feature debut is an intriguing period drama about two French military officers who get into a long feud over a perceived insult that takes place over several years and involves many duels.  Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine are solid as the soldiers with Keitel really coming off well as a bitter, determined man who is probably a little too obsessed with the idea of personal honor for his own good.  Ridley Scott shows a keen eye for detail even at this early stage and the overall effect is a wonderfully staged, interesting drama.

6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

While it will never be my favorite Spielberg film (Teri Garr has always just annoyed me), Close Encounters of the Third Kind is still one of the best films about U.F.O.s ever made.  Richard Dreyfuss is good as the obsessive lead, the rest of the cast is solid (I'll even give Teri Garr credit as her character was supposed to be an unlikable shrew) and the f/x are quite good.  Just a damn good movie.

5. The Gauntlet

One of the few times Clint Eastwood has gone for the "big, dumb action movie" route, The Gauntlet is basically a cheerfully violent late 70's action flick with Clint as a down and out Phoenix cop charged with escorting a hooker played by the inevitable Sondra Lock (from 1976 to 1983 at least) to a trial where she will testify against some unknown but very powerful villains.  Things go less than smoothly and it turns into sort of a buddy picture a the two go on the run from cops who are hell-bent on rubbing them out.  It's not that smart but it's a hell of a lot of fun as Clint has fun with his tough guy persona and we get some nice action set pieces, especially the huge climax where Clint steers a city bus through a gauntlet of fellow officers.

4. Master of the Flying Guillotine

Really terrific martial arts film about a one-armed martial arts master who enters a tournament full of the usual eccentric fighters one tends to find in this sort of film while also staving off the blind assassin whose students he killed some time previous.  The assassin wields the titular flying guillotine, a remarkably nasty weapon that is utterly cool.  Great fight scenes make this one one hell of a ride.

3. Slap Shot

The best comedy, not to mention the best sports film of 1977 is Slap Shot.  It's a rowdy, wonderfully profane comedy about a struggling minor league hockey team led by Paul Newman in one of his best roles as he resorts to some hilariously brutal rough house tactics to win games.  It's a winning mixture of humor, violence and a little drama with a great Newman performance and a fun supporting cast.

2. Star Wars

The one that started it all.  Star Wars is, at its heart, a fun tribute to all those serials from the 40's and 50's with some awesome for the time special effects and a winning cast.  Not a hell of a lot more to say here except that the only reason this is in second place is because number one is just that damn good.

1. The Spy who Loved Me

The tenth James Bond film is simply the best of the year.  A huge, sprawling action epic, it takes our hero from one end of the world to the other as he fights to stop an insane billionaire from starting World War 3 and destroying the surface world.  Roger Moore turns in his best performance as Bond, Richard Kiel is a terrific henchman and the action is simply breathtaking.  It's just a fantastic movie.

And that's it for 1977.  Great year for film with a ton of variety.


  1. Bond over Star Wars, huh? Well...I guess that puts your tastes into perspective. Or carbonite. Not that I'm complaining. I just gave you grief a month or so ago on another site over your irrepressible love for the Bond. Well, I can certain respect that, and understand that, now. You've totally owned that now.

    Geez...Bond over Star Wars??! I say View to a Kill and For Your Eyes Only recently, as was surprised as how much of liked them, given their reps (meaning there are still only three Bond movies I haven't liked, though I'm only halfway through Moore's). But....over STAR WARS? And I've seen your Bond rankings. You're putting at least seven Bond films over Star Wars.


    Oh well, who cares? Shine on, you crazy diamond.

  2. It's pretty close for me, actually. I probably would have made it a tie if I could have found another film I felt good about putting on the list.


About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.