What’s so great about 1970’s cinema, you ask?
It’s difficult to fathom that the 1970s began more than a half century ago. The decade was a tumultuous time, both culturally and politically. All of that is well and good, but I’d like to focus on what had always intrigued me the most about the 1970s: the sheer vastness and utter insanity in which the American public was able to consume on a week-to-week basis at their local movie theater.
The late-60s brought tremendous change to the moviegoing landscape with the formation of the Motion Picture Association of America, and filmmakers were ready. Pretty much overnight, the studio roadshow blockbusters that had dominated single-screen moviehouses were being replaced by films that meant more to the filmmaker than some rich studio fat cat. The average American moviegoer was now able to view riskier material that contained bad language, graphic violence and more explicit sex scenes. It was a shift that was embraced — and later exploited — but one that was also a necessary passing-of-the-torch that ultimately begat the careers of such luminaries as Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman and George Lucas. Foreign movies (with subtitles even!) were suddenly in the suburbs. Black became cool. Kung fu became accessible.
But the seventies brought even more to the table as time marched on. Movies that became huge hits were then ripped off by overseas filmmakers and released alongside the films they were ripping off. Exploitation became so prevalent that the genre spun off into a multiverse of sub-genres — blaxploitation, Bruceploitation, sexploitation, hixploitation, bikesploitation, hell, even nunsploitation had it’s moment. Quality notwithstanding, there was always something of interest at theaters and drive-ins to see, the wild and wacky scope of which we have yet to see duplicated to this day.
My fascination with this era has little to do with the superiority of these films — in fact, most of them are not very good and do not hold up well. No, it has more to do with the whiplash lunacy that was available week-to-week. No matter your mood, there was always something of interest available to see. The movies were sometimes dull, but there was never a dull moment.
The purpose of this project is to expound just how wild the cinematic rollercoaster of 1970s filmgoing truly was from beginning to end. We will detail each and every available film, in order they were released from January 1970 through December 1979, as well as offer up a little insight into whether or not they still hold up. It’s a daunting endeavor — we’re talking nearly 4,000 movies here — but one that fascinates me enough that I felt the need to document the experience before it is lost to the annals of time.
So pop some popcorn, crack open a can of Royal Crown cola and meet me down at the drive-in around dusk because we’re about to embark on a cinematic adventure unlike any other. Bellbottoms and butterfly collars optional.