Tom Jolliffe tries to go back to 1971, which is full of granular, loud and iconic crime movies …
Does 1971 look like so long ago? Well guess what … It’s half a century ago. Back in the film year, a series of groundbreaking films can be seen, with a fascinating pessimism, gross violence and uncompromising humility in between. This was well and really part of the momentum of a dark, trend-setting film, pushing violence to new levels and removing the idea of a happy ending. Bonnie and Clydea few years before, served as a major turning point. Gone was the view of the streets of America (or Britain) with a romantic shiny look. The fascinating Cold War paranoia that began in the 60s continued, but now we also saw average streets. Belly of London, New York, Chicago, Frisco, LA, etc. Perhaps U.S. and British cinemas were catching up with some of Europe or experimental frontiers in Asia, but nonetheless, this year may have triggered the coming golden age of film before the success boom.
Britain’s own Michael Caine had gone through historical war epics, Cold War spy movies, and reverently rushed between embarrassing Britons in the army to a brazen, happy chief. Although Caine had become synonymous with a rather unlikely, but still completely credible tough guy, in 1971 he became Get Carter. The iconic British masterpiece featured much effortless Caine Charm, directed by Mike Hodges in style and featuring a host of colorful character actors. Caine plunders the gloomy area of Newcastle in the early 70s, and is beautifully captured by Austrian photographer Wolfgang Suschitzky, who casts a distinctly Euro-like eye on those northern streets. It doesn’t look quite like Ken Loach, it looks even more cruel, like the dark streets of post-war Vienna or even after divided Germany. Empty, gray, impressive, but stripping the viewer. The perfect setting for a fatalistic revenge drama with an inevitable outcome.
Meanwhile, William Friedkin developed his own somewhat uncompromising style. An almost documentary atmosphere without resorting to docu-type excesses, which have become the norm for everything that is described as such in this century. Even when shooting while holding or driving a car hunt that takes us directly inside the vehicle and adds tension, it’s never exaggerated and always has clarity (unlike an excessive trembling cam). Gene Hackman is clearly flawed, a police officer with racist tendencies. His methods are excessive and often break the rules. He is not sympathetic, but we are challenged to take root for him (something that may be increasingly rare at this age). In addition to these shortcomings, his goal is to stop the perpetrators. Necessary evil for a greater good and anchored to a low-key and empathetic partner (played by the extremely underrated Roy Schieder with an applause). It’s still a great, great movie. Lively, powerful with exciting action, and yet our hero is a guy who shoots a man in the back.
The man who directed the final space film just a couple of years earlier then caused a great deal of controversy with his dystopian adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel, Watch case orange. Alex (Malcolm MacDowell) and his Droogs roam the streets, fighting rival gangs, drinking milk and eating omelets, and beating and raping the brutally wealthy middle classes in their own homes. The films ’unlimited style and violence didn’t sit well, although over time, the film’s artistic merits became fully apparent (neither for the first nor for the last time on Kubrick’s resume). Amazing graphics, an unforgettable soundtrack and a unique style combined with a film from its past, and yet nothing like that.
Something, perhaps a little more in numbers, still played an important role in promoting the tone and violence of modern action. We were far from the wild west and the wild streets. No romantic views of cops vs. robberies or heroic gangsters, this was Clint Eastwood vs. serial killer (a film based loosely on zodiac murders) in Dirty Harry. Callahan, like Hackman’s Popeye Doyle, is inherently flawed. Even 50 years ago, he is a harsh relic. A setback to an unlimited tactic that has not reached more advanced times and a growing multicultural society. Once again, as Callahan grows more thoughtful through the film, mocking its brazen appearance, we are forced to want him to win, especially as he repeatedly puts his life on a bigger good line. The film features violence, the cruelty and action of its psychopathic killer (brilliant Andrew Robinson).
In 1971, a couple of iconic films were marked at the rising Blaxploitation cinema Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss song and maybe a whole decade of poster film in black film (unless Pam Grier did something). Axel Richard Roundtree saw nominal nonsense police cleaning the streets in his own inimitable, unscrupulous style. It is still one of the best and one of the most grounded in the blaxploitation era. There’s indeed an even bigger, very funky style out there that sets the traits for many upcoming films (the soundtrack is iconic, of course), but when the push comes to push, there’s a lot of beats to the violence, cause and effect.
The year saw much more outside of crime, but a tendency to cruelty. Ken Russell, who was no stranger to extremes, pushed sensors to the limits Devils, while in Oz Ted Kotcheff showed a sweaty and relentlessly unpleasant (but brilliant) picture of the inevitable hinterland Wake up in fear. If it wasn’t the eternal dust, dirt, and sweat that made us grimace, it was an unwaveringly cruel Kangaroo hunting scene that pushed the sensors even further than Russell or Kubrick.
At the same time, Peckpinah also took an American star (Dustin Hoffman) and pushed him into rural regional Britain. Alongside his magnificent young British wife (Susan George), they draw attention to countless locals (including his ex) who then gradually enjoyed playing with the seemingly masculine mathematician. A violent response is inevitable when crossed after an inciting event as the film lands in its iconic finale. Peckinpah had begun writing rules for editing functions Wild crowd, where there was still some Western romance with the old cowboys going to glory. Straw dogs was and remains his darkest and most distressing sight, which added more shocking cruelty to his stylistic features than cowboys or later Getaway. The film actually came in late December, which limits the boundaries of the year that push violence and dark, tedious layoffs.
What is your favorite 1971 movie? Tell us your thoughts on our social channels @ flickeringmyth …
Tom Jolliffe is an award-winning screenwriter and passionate kinefile. He has several films on DVD / VOD around the world and several releases scheduled for release in 2021/2022, including Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls, and World of War: The Attack (Vincent Regan). You can find more information on the best personal site you will ever see …https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/