6. The Cassandra Crossing
“The Cassandra Crossing” is one of those movies that is, in many ways, not very good, but does have some merits that makes it worth checking out. Playing out as a cross between a political thriller and a disaster movie, it was savaged by critics, and though it did get some play time in the 70s, it was quickly forgotten.
The movie stars Sophia Loren and Richard Harris as train passengers, and Burt Lancaster as a military officer who has to decide what to do with the train when it is discovered a passenger aboard is a terrorist sick with bubonic plague. The officer decides to send it down the dangerous Cassandra Crossing, and the two on board try their best to save everyone.
What makes this movie interesting is that it is one of the first movies to deal with terrorism, and how the 70’s view of terrorism (then in its infancy) is looked upon compared to our post-9/11 world.
The military officer is viewed as the heartless bad guy for wanting to kill hundreds of people in order to save potentially hundreds of thousands of people, and the two on the train are heroes trying to save everyone. In today’s modern view of global terrorism, the roles are now reversed and the officer is on the right side of things.
It cannot be stated enough that this movie is not perfect; it has cheesy effects, overblown writing, and the actors seem to be there just for the paycheck. However, it does give us the ability to make comparisons of today’s view of terrorism to how those in the 70s thought it should be handled.
7. The Culpepper Cattle Co.
The list of great Westerns from 70s could stretch on for miles, with both Clint Eastwood and John Wayne topping those lists several times over. “The Culpepper Cattle Company Co.” is a small-budget gem of a movie that had no chance of competing with them, but is worth seeking out if you can find it. It stars Gary Grimes as farm boy who has read too many pulp novels about being a cowboy, and talks a trail boss into hiring him as a cowhand.
The movie is viewed from Grimes’ character’s perspective, and he effectively gives us the perspective of a wide-eyed adolescent being subjected the realities of living on the open range. What starts out as a coming-of-age movie set in the Old West quickly turns into a violent lesson of what it’s like to live in a country that was largely lawless.
No one would ever compare the end shoot out to Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” (no movie will compare to it), but it is well staged and very violent, and it also changes the tone of the movie in a surprising way. This movie is very hard to find today, since it was not even showed much in the 70s, but is well worth trying to find.
8. Slap Shot
This is truly one of the funniest movies to be made in the 70s, and except for “Network” and “Animal House”, no other comedy comes close to comparing to it. It is truly amazing that this movie does not get more recognition.
It really does have everything going for it, including the great director George Roy Hill teaming up with Paul Newman, and nonstop humor from beginning to end that doubles as an indictment of the violence that was prevalent in the media and the entertainment industry at the time. Newman was in top form at the time and is a joy to watch from beginning to end.
Newman’s character is a player/manager of a minor league company-sponsored hockey team that is failing. With the threat of being shut down, he hires three of the most violent hockey players he could find to drum up interest in the team and make the team profitable again. What follows is one hilarious moment after another that will leave you rolling on the floor laughing.
It almost takes multiple viewings to see the inner message of people’s hunger for violence. It does get shown on cable once in awhile and is worth seeking out. This movie, along with “Network”, is fine example of 70’s satire, a lost art in today’s Hollywood. Don’t waste your time on a commercial channel version, though, network censors will suck the life out of a movie like this.
9. Escape From the Planet of the Apes
The original “Planet of the Apes” is a classic science fiction movie that still holds up today. The same cannot be said for most of its sequels, with the exception being this little gem, which takes the original’s premise and reverses its premise to show another damning indictment of man’s interaction with their planet.
Instead of having an astronaut enter the world of the apes, we have three apes enter the world of humans with the outcome being both funny and tragic at the same time.
Three apes who have taken the ship from the previous movie’s astronaut, right before the planet is destroyed, travel in time back to present day Earth. While military and government figures try to reconcile what to do with them, they do their best to keep the secret of Earth’s future and their intelligence.
This is a movie that plays out in a weird way, more as a prequel than a sequel, and gives us a start on how the “Planet of the Apes” world is created. Roddy McDowall, returning as the ape leader, gives this movie a boost that was sorely missed in the last movie. This one is shown from time to time, but seems to fall under the radar now that the rebooted movies are being released.
10. The Sentinel
The 70s has many fine examples of the horror genre, “The Exorcist” and “Alien” to just a few, so it’s not surprising that a few fell under the radar and this movie is one that is rarely shown, if ever. Nobody would consider comparing this movie to “The Exorcist”, but it does have its merits and has enough scares to be recommended.
The movie concerns itself with a model who rents out a New York brownstone where a blind priest inhabits the top floor. Naturally, strange occurrences start to happen and things go bump in the night.
The movie does borrow from other better horror movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Omen”, but by relying on atmosphere instead of gore, it generates some very creepy moments. The movie also does not have a contrived and pat ending, which has killed more than one horror movie. It’s another movie that is almost impossible to find it; it’s worth seeking out, though not recommended for viewing alone at night.