1939 is considered the best year ever for Hollywood. Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Hunchback of Notre Dame & Wuthering Heights…all acknowledged classics released in a 12 month period.
But my personal favorite year for film will always be 1974. It was the year I found out I could get into R rated films even though I was not of age. I traveled to 42nd Street, plunked my money down and all the blood squibs, bare titties and foul language I could ever hope for was was mine to enjoy. I saw probably every movie released in 1974. It was the year I began my career as a ventriloquist street performing in New York.
Now not all the films on my list are the big, Oscar nominated, obvious choices, but fuck you, it’s my 5.
Although they say The Godfather was the best movie ever made, many people prefer this sequel. It’s bigger, longer & more far reaching than GF1. From Italy to Nevada, New York, Miami & Cuba. It’s so great. It has DeNiro as the young Don. The Oscar winning performance is still the best he’s ever been. He and Brando both received Oscars for playing the same character…that’s never happened before or since.
Mel Brooks…Holy shit. He was on fire that year. Just 2 of the funniest movies made in 1 year. Mel has no role in Young Frankenstein, but he has 2 roles in Blazing Saddles. His send up of Hollywood westerns and the Universal monster movies of the 30s. The black & white photography in YF looks amazing. With the original lab equipment from the 1931 film in place, he turns loose the funniest cast around. Both amazing timeless classics.
Charles Bronson is a guy who never got the credit he deserves. It’s all in the face. No one would mug Charles Bronson, the toughest man ever. Yet they do and he gets busy cleaning up the New York of the 1970s, which really was scary & dangerous. Bronson plays Paul Kersey, a liberal NY architect. When his wife & daughter are attacked & raped & his wife murdered, the police give him no hope for solving the crime. He doesn’t know anything about who murdered his wife, but every night he goes out & kills whoever is starting shit. He’s not a violent man to begin with, so it’s fun to watch him become ‘Charles Bronson’. So if you want to see New York in the 1970s watch this gritty urban classic. Also look for a very young Denzel Washington & Jeff Goldblum 2 of the muggers. Can you guess which Spinal Tap star has a small role as a rookie cop?
James Caan & Alan Arkin. Arkin has publicly apologized for this movie and I don’t get it. It’s great. Forerunner to all those Lethal Weapon buddy cop movies, combining hilarious dialogue, graphic violence and really exciting car crashes & chase scenes. 10 years later, Beverly Hills Cop did the same thing mixing generes, comedy/action/high body count. When I saw this film, my young mind snapped. I went back every day for weeks to watch it over & over again. I own the DVD, and it’s still great, Mr Arkin.
The title alone is nuts, but this movie transports you into a bizarre world of bloody revenge. The great Warren Oates plays Benny, the piano player in a seedy bar in Mexico. Two mafia thugs hire Benny to kill Garcia for knocking up the daughter of their boss. All he has to do is bring proof that Alfredo is dead to collect his fee, only to find out he’s already dead & buried. Nice break for him. Now he only has to dig him up & chop his fucking head off to collect his dough. However the people in this Mexican village are not cool with desecrating a grave, so now he’s got half of Mexico trying to kill him. For the rest of the film, you are right there in the front seat with Benny taking the ride. You can smell this movie. As he slowly slips into insanity, driving, drinking tequila and emptying his .45 into everyone he meets. Oates was his generation’s Bogart. One of the greats & Warren Oates starring in a Sam Peckenpah film… Don’t get much better.