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The 1970s and Gangster Films

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#1 Persona


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Posted 21 March 2007 - 07:53 PM

I am realizing that I was wrong, and that's OK with me. When it comes to being wrong about film, I'm the best at it. The reason I'm OK with it is because DougC told me years ago that this was normal -- that people grow, their tastes grow, they change. Their tastes, if allowed, are nurtured. No problem if you don't understand why you don't like a film or a story that everyone else is raving about or the masses are swallowing whole like fast food -- move on, and revisit it in a few years to see if you still agree with yourself.

(This is also why it must be so hard for you pros to actually have to set stars to new films. I feel for ya.)

Years ago I said that nothing good came out of the 70s. Wow, what an ignorant thing to say. I have been on a 70s kick lately, and I am starting to wonder if it is indeed one of my favorite film decades. I don't know how to list it except to start with the obvious: The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, and Apocalypse Now. These are superbly crafted films that are sumptuous to sit down to every time you do. And if you've seen them once, you will no doubt revisit them later.

But wait. This thread is not simply about the 1970s. It is about helping me to find the best 70s films, and helping me to find the best gangster films as well.

A lot of this started with DePalma's Scarface (1983, yes, I know), which I saw maybe six months ago for the first time. It seriously blew my mind. I walked around for weeks saying," Let me introduce you to my little friend." I greeted fellow worshippers with the phrase; I threatened to open up a Sunday morning service with it (which is why no one wonders why I left my job. smile.gif ) I then watched a lot of DePalma: Carrie, The Untouchables, Carlitos's Way, and The Black Dahlia quickly stand out. I also rewatched Miller's Crossing (Love it), LA Confidential (Like it), and sat down for the first time in my adult life with The Deer Hunter (De Niro and Walken are gods with a small g).

In short, after having years where I loved silent films from the twenties and years when I loved art and foreign films, it seems I am coming into a phase where I am beginning to fall heavily in love with classic American films, of which it seems the best are well written gangster films (this, says a guy who just moved from Chicago) and 1970s film (cuz they didn't have CGI back then to screw the whole film process up).

I really didn't know how to leap into the 70s, so I kinda stumbled instead, and watched all the Dirty Harry films. There are five. I will never get those hours of my life back. It's OK, I am forgiven. The first one was OK, I guess, in fact they were all OK, they were entertaining. There, I admit it. But still, I can't think that this is classic American cinema (even though it probably is).

A lot of this was just rambled out but here I appeal to you anyway. I think I now like 70s films, and I know I love gangster films. So what are the best, or at least your favorites, and why? Thom(Asher) introduced me to Donnie Brasco, and now I've got the whole neighborhood here in Wyoming Michigan saying "Fuggetaboudit." smile.gif L.O.V.E. I.T.

With where I'm at in this phase, what should I be checking out next? I'd honestly appreciate your input.


Edited by stef, 21 March 2007 - 08:36 PM.

#2 Anders


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Posted 22 March 2007 - 12:21 AM

Well Stef, I think you should check out for sure the other 70s Copolla Classic, which is sorely underrated, The Conversation.

#3 MattPage


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Posted 22 March 2007 - 04:48 AM

Love Godfather 1 & 2 and my answer to your question would probably stop there if not for the rest of your post.

In terms of gangster films, I know what I'm about to say is wrong, but I still like "Road to Perdition" despite it's flaws (As well as all those you have mentioned).

In terms of 70s films, then I love The Sting, and would strongly recommend anything with Jack Nicholson in. I've been gradually watching more, and he was fantastic before he became a parody of himself. FWIW the IMDB has a list of their top films of the 70s, and there are some great films on there (although not as many as I'd have liked).

And one that fits in all categories - Chinatown - Fantastic.


#4 Christian



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Posted 22 March 2007 - 06:06 AM

Stef, I read your post last night, right before logging off, and decided to "sleep on it." However, the morning finds me no clearer on what to recommend. Anders already mentioned Coppolla's other classic film from the 1970s -- really, you must see it, especially because you (presumably) watched De Palma's "Blow Out" during your De Palma run (you did watch "Blow Out," didn't you?).

I'm thinking of directors rather than films. Certainly, Altman's stuff from that decade has to be seen. I'm not as enamored with his output during that period as most critics -- indeed, I've never bought into the 1970s cinematic across-the-board film mystique championed by the critics who spent their early professional years evaluating films during that time -- but it's signature stuff that no true cinephile should miss.

Lucas and Spielberg, both associated more with 1980s blockbusters, made "American Graffiti," "Jaws," and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" during the decade (and "Duel," and "1941" [right?], and "THX..." and ...).

Scorcese's films, of course: "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," ... what am I forgetting? "Raging Bull" wasn't until 1980 or '81, right?

Gangster films ain't my bag, but you've already mentioned my favorite, from the late 1980s (or was it the early '90s?): "Miller's Crossing."

This is bugging me. There's so much more to the 1970s than just the big names above, but I'm not thinking of other films right now. And that's just American cinema. What about international films? Bergman and Fellini were still going strong during the decade. The "golden age" of foreign cinema may have peaked in the 1960s, in the view of American moviegoers, but there was good stuff being made in the 1970s, of course. Don't know that it all made it to these shores, however.

Help me out, A&Fers.

UPDATE: Comedies! Woody Allen.

Edited by Christian, 22 March 2007 - 06:07 AM.

#5 DanBuck


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Posted 22 March 2007 - 06:26 AM

I'll second the conversation and add Harold & Maude and Serpico to the list.

An interesting take on the modern mob (less Italian, but just as many f-bombs) is Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (which I love!)

#6 Thom


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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:29 AM

I think Chinatown (1974) is a must. It is less gangster film and more film noir in style but a definite any list. Plus, I know you want more Roman Polanski.

#7 Diane


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Posted 22 March 2007 - 09:07 AM

QUOTE(Christian @ Mar 22 2007, 05:06 AM) View Post
I'm thinking of directors rather than films. Certainly, Altman's stuff from that decade has to be seen.

Stef, given your love for Bergman's Persona, I recommend Altman's 3 Women, which also deals with characters who switch personalities. It will be very quiet compared to the gangster films you've been watching, but I found it fascinating and unsettling.

#8 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 02:20 PM

Can The Wild Bunch count? 1969 and a Western, but if it isn't one of the key predecessors to almost all those 70s ganster films, I don't what is.

#9 J.R.



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Posted 22 March 2007 - 03:17 PM

One of my favorite gangster films is the often overlooked Once Upon a Time in America.

Recently I saw Sleuth for the first time and I would definitely say it belongs on the list of great 70s films.

Edited by J.R., 22 March 2007 - 03:19 PM.

#10 Thom


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Posted 23 March 2007 - 12:28 AM

How about Bugsy Malone (1976)? This is some of Scott Baio's finest work and the kids can watch it too. Ah, Fuggetaboudit.

#11 John Drew

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 09:25 AM

Some early DePalma films from the 70's that really got under my skin were Sisters and Obsession. Both are heavily influenced by the Hitchcock films Rear Window and Verigo, but I saw both Depalma films first, so I wasn't jaded at his "borrowing". But this seems to be the case of most DePalma films (The Untouchables/Eisenstien films - Blow Out/Blow up), yet he throws enough of his own twists and turns to make the themes his own.

#12 Persona


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Posted 23 March 2007 - 09:55 AM

Thank you everyone for your suggestions. Keep 'em coming if you can think of anything else. The ones that stand out the quickest are Chinatown, Mean Streets and Once Upon a Time in America. I will have a date with those soon. Oh, and The Conversation, thanks Anders.

Oh, and no, I haven't seen Blow Out. Tsk, tsk. Christian slaps the hand.

I forgot to mention that I just watched Taxi Driver. For about the fifth time. I love it. It clearly stands out as a great 70s film.

That's the category we're lacking though. It seems that we've got the gangster films covered, but (like Christian said) aren't there any more great films from the 70s? What are we missing here?

And Matt, when did I ever pick on Road to Perdition? I honestly don't remember.


#13 Backrow Baptist

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 10:45 PM

In no particular order.


I've got the book, DVD, and the poster. Even before I became a police officer Frank Serpico has been a hero of mine. Besides standing up to the coruption he was surrounded by, he was way ahead of his time in law enforcement. He went to college to better himself. He lived in Greenwich Village and got to know the people decades before anyone was talking about community oriented policing. He even carried a high capacity 9mm (handgun) when ever other officer was carrying a .38 revolver. Pacino is heartbreaking at the end.

The Conversation

Great, under appreciated Coppola. Reworking Blow Up with a different lead character. Also sort of a prequel to Enemy of the State.

The King of New York

Not 70's, but a great gangster film. Christopher Walken is the man. I can't help but smile when he stares down Lawrence Fishburne and then starts dancing.

#14 MattPage


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Posted 26 March 2007 - 07:52 AM

QUOTE(stef @ Mar 23 2007, 02:55 PM) View Post
And Matt, when did I ever pick on Road to Perdition? I honestly don't remember.-s.
Oh I think that was my bad English! The "As well as all those you have mentioned" referred to the great films you had mentioned in your initial post (Untouchables, LA Confidential etc.)

Thanks for the PM btw


#15 Christopher C. Murphy

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 09:18 PM

This is my first post on this site....hello everyone. My name is Chris and I hail from New Hampshire.

I think the topic is a perfect one because I love 70's cinema. It's my favorite.

Why hasn't anyone mentioned Rocky? I think it's the greatest movie from the 70's - what other movie makes you feel so amazing? It has everything to leave an impression you.

Of course, Star Wars...no one mentioned Star Wars?? It's also the greatest movie from the 70's.

Wait. How can there be two greatest movies from the 70's? That's because each classic 70's film is the best!!

Little Big Man - back when Dustin acted great.

Sounder - an underrated film from the 70's.

1776 - ditto

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Dreyfuss is amazing in this movie.

JAWS - watch it.

Blazing Saddles - a good look at comedy in the 70's. (also, check Young Frankenstein

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Jack's best.

All the President's Men - I love David Fincher, but his recent Zodiac reminded me how much this movie rocked.

The Deer Hunter - personally, I think DeNiro's best.

Halloween - horror movies today are boring because to much is happening. This is a very boring horror movie that is very, very scary. I wish all new directors would watch this one.

Papillon - I wish they made movies like this today. It's so well crafted...it builds and the climax is a simple dive into the ocean. How perfect.

Alien - come on...science fiction hasn't really progressed beyond this movie.

The Black Stallion
- this is the greatest vision movie of the 70's. It was made to be watched and not really listened to...it's all visual cinematic storytelling. It's really cool to watch and get lost.

Jesus Christ Superstar - just a fun way of looking at what people thought in the 70's.

Superman - no comic book movie has made me care about the people in the move than this one. It's serious, simple...silly and campy. But, a perfect mix.

More to come if anyone cares to comment...I'd love to continue this discussion!

Edited by Christopher C. Murphy, 15 July 2007 - 09:23 PM.

#16 mrmando


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Posted 15 July 2007 - 09:45 PM


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

#17 David


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Posted 16 July 2007 - 01:28 AM

Five Easy Pieces, Kings of the Road

Edited by David, 16 July 2007 - 01:29 AM.

#18 John Drew

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Posted 16 July 2007 - 09:41 AM

Stef, a couple more 70's titles that are worth checking out...

Fat City... One of the most overlooked films of the 70's, probably the best boxing movie I have seen (sorry Martin Scorsese), and most likely my favorite film from director John Huston. Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges are superb, although I can't think of a performance in this film that wasn't top knotch.

Straight Time... Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Dustin Hoffman just excelled in the 70's, and this movie probably contains Hoffman's greatest performance of that decade, that of a recently paroled thief and his futile attempts to quit the life of crime. This performance was completely bypassed by any awards recognition, yet it is far better than his Oscar winning role the following year in Kramer vs. Kramer.

And two from Peter Bogdanovich...

The Last Picture Show... Superb photography and excellent performances from a young cast, although the standout performance was from veteran Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion. If you watch this and enjoy it, do yourself a favor and do not rent the sequel Texasville.

Paper Moon... This is the film that, as a kid, taught me that movies don't have to be made in color to be great.

#19 yukiyuki



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Posted 28 July 2007 - 09:20 AM

What I Love (Not every movie is a gangster movie):
- Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Cassavetes), and this could be considered as a gangster movie.
- Opening Night (Cassavetes), it's more devastating than Sunset Boulevard
- Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes)
- Ali Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder)
- Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer)
- Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette)
- Chloe in the Afternoon (Rohmer)
- Fox and His Friend (Fassbinder)
- Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett)
- Mikey & Nicky (Elaine May)
- Minnie & Moskowitz (Cassavetes)
- Pakeezah (Kamal Amrohi)
- Phantom of Liberty (Bunuel)
- Pink Flamingos
- Scenes from a Marriage
- Wanda (Barbara Loden)
- Aguirre (Herzog)
- Avanti! (Wilder)
- Barry Lyndon
- Claire's Knee
- Conformist, The (Bertolucci)
- Cries and Whispers (Bergman)
- Day for Night (Truffaut)
- Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Bunuel)
- F For Fake (Welles)
- Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (Bertrand Blier)
- Grease
- Harlan County, USA
- Harold and Maude
- Heat (Paul Morrissey)
- Lady Snowblood (Toshiya FUjita), This is where Tarantino got his Kill Bill idea.
- Land of Silence and Darkness (Herzog)
- La Rupture (Chabrol)
- Le Cercle Rouge (Melville)
- Love in the Afternoon (Rohmer)
- Marriage of Maria Braun, The (Fassbinder)
- Mirror (Tarkovsky)
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Picnic at Hanging Rock (Weir)
- Rocky Horror Picture Show
- That Obscure Object of Desire (Bunuel)
- Trash (Paul Morrissey)

#20 John Drew

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 08:50 PM


Post no more suggestions folks. They apparently go unheeded, as we see here
and here.