Sunday, July 9, 2017

Critical Commentary - Two '70's Movies

I have spent some time in recent days watching a couple of movies from the 1970's, and I have come away favorably impressed.

The first is an undeniable classic and may very well be the movie that defined the term "Blockbuster", from 1975, Steven Spielberg's "Jaws".

We've all seen this one, am I right, so I don't really need to tell you what it is about, do I?  One day this past winter I saw Blue-ray edition of "Jaws" in the ten dollar sale bin at Target, and I just couldn't pass it by, and I finally got around to watching it one afternoon this week.  

First off, I was amazed at how beautiful the movie was on Blue-ray.  Since this movie was made at a time when High Definition did not exist, I wasn't sure how it would look on my HD TV, but I needn't have worried.  It was gorgeous, and it was almost like seeing a brand new movie for the first time.  (How do they do that??) Secondly, and even more importantly, the movie still packs the terrifying wallop that it did that first time you saw it back in '75.

When Spielberg agreed to do the movie - and he was only 27 years old at the time, let that fact sink in on you - his vision was that the shark should not be seen by the audience for at least the first hour of the film.  This would build suspense to the point that you would leave you seat when you did see it, and, yes, I STILL jump when that shark puts his head out for the water as Roy Scheider lays out that chum line.

Then there are all of the extras that appear on the Blue-ray disc.  Hours and hours of them, including a two hour 1995 documentary called "The Making of Jaws", and I am still working my way through them.  

Two lines of dialog from that movie have made their way into the current vernacular to the point that many people who use them may not even realize from whence they came:

  • "This was no boating accident." To be used when presented with a set of facts and suppositions, often in the work place, that are obviously pure unadulterated bullshit.
  • When confronted with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, either at home, with your family, or in the workplace, who among us hasn't said "We're going to need a bigger boat."
If you are a fan of this movie, or if in the unlikely event you have never seen it, seek out and pick yourself up a copy of the "Jaws" Blue-ray.

The second movie was Arthur Hiller's 1976 comedy "Silver Streak".

I remember going to the theater to see this one when it was released - and for all you youngsters out there,that was the only way you could see a movie back in 1976 - and enjoying it a lot, but I know that I had not seen it since.  I was prompted to watch it again because my pal Dan often makes reference to this one, particularly to one specific line of dialog near the end.  

You always wonder how a movie, particularly a comedy, might hold up forty-one years after it's first release, and I am delighted to say that this one was still fresh and still funny.  Not a whole lot of it was dated.  It is sad to note that the three lead actors in this one, Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, and Richard Pryor, are no longer with us, which is all the more reason to watch this one again and enjoy their performances.  Pryor in particular is brilliant in this.  There was also one scene that I had completely forgotten in which Wilder puts shoe polish on his face, at Pryor's urging, to disguise himself as a black guy in order to avoid the cops.  It was absolutely hilarious.

The plot of the story, as if that really matters, involves Wilder taking a three day train trip for Los Angeles to Chicago in order to relax and be "bored for awhile".  On board, he meets a sexy lady in the cabin next door, gets involved with some bad guys, and gets thrown off the train three different times, yet is somehow able to catch up to it and re-board. Implausible and slightly ridiculous, but still outrageously funny.

As I said, Pryor was fabulous in this movie.  I got hysterical when he grabbed the radio while driving a stolen police car, called the sheriff and told him....

Hey Chauncey, this is Grover T. Muldoon. You wanna know what happened? We just whooped your ass. We whooped your ass. Ha ha ha!

This movie also gives you he opportunity to see, in a bit part near the end of the movie, a very young Fred Willard.

Lots of funny stuff in this movie, including a classic line from Scatman Crothers, which I will save for use when we take our own train trip to Chicago later this year.

All in all, two very worthwhile trips back into the 1970's this past week for The Grandstander.

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