YEAR OF FURIOUS FILMS: 1974

Year of Furious Films is our newest series on FC where we’ll be choosing our favorite films from each designated year. You may notice that we won’t be going in chronological order, it’ll be more random, but that’s really part of the fun. We’ll be covering a wide array of movies from various eras spanning from the 20th century to the modern age. We hope you enjoy these lists and that they’ll inspire you to give the movies a watch or even a rewatch if you’ve already seen them.

1974

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Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Dir: Martin Scorsese)

A newly widowed woman from New Mexico named Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) goes on the road with her young son Tommy (Alfred Lutter) in hopes of starting a new life. A real departure for urbanite filmmaker Martin Scorsese that examines things from the female point of view. It remains one of his very best efforts. Co-starring Kris Kristofferson, Harvey Keitel, Diane Ladd, Jodie Foster, Billy Green Bush and Vic Tayback. TRIVIA: This film inspired the TV show ALICE starring Linda Lavin.

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The Beast Must Die (Dir: Paul Annett)

Wealthy big game hunter Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) has hired a tech expert named Pavel (Anton Diffring) to design a special security system which will help him see and hear the whereabouts of his next big prize: a werewolf. The guests brought to Newcliffe’s estate are a bizzare mix of characters including: Bennington (Charles Gray) an ex British diplomat, Jan Jarmokowski (Michael Gambon) a pianist who enjoys the taste of human flesh, his girlfriend Davina (Ciaran Madden) and Tom’s wife Caroline (Marlene Clark) and Dr Christopher Lundgren an expert on lyncanthropes. When Tom explains to his guests that he invited them to his home because he believes one of them is a werewolf, they are outraged. Like clockwork, werewolf attacks begin occurring and the gathering becomes a bloody game of whodunit.
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Black Belt Jones (Dir: Robert Clouse)

When an undercover agent is murdered trying to infiltrate a mafia money scheme, the government brings in kung fu master Black Belt Jones (Jim Kelly) to take his place to find the hidden cash. It turns out the mafia, led by Don Steffano (Andre Phillipe) want to build a civic center in South Central Los Angeles, only there’s one building right in the middle of the planned construction site that they don’t own that must be removed. It just so happens it’s the very martial arts school where our hero works. A war between the students and the criminals raises the tension and stakes. An action packed, humorous kung fu-blaxploitation cult classic.

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Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Dir: Michael Cimino)

Dirty Harry and The Dude team up in Cimino’s directorial debut! A slacker named Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) steals a car and nearby a gunman tries to kill a minister during a church service. Lightfoot manages to save the preacher as he’s being chased by the assassin. It turns out this man of God (Clint Eastwood) is actually a professional bank robber nicknamed “The Thunderbolt” who has been incognito as a minister because of a robbery he took part in. When Lightfoot finds out his identity he gets an idea to pull off another heist. Thunderbolt recruits his old crew, Red (George Kennedy) and Goody (Geoffrey Lewis) to take part and this is where the real action, adventure and double crosses begin!

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Black Christmas (Dir: Bob Clark)

An all girls college sorority in Canada is terrorized by a mysterious psycho whose trademark is leaving frightening obscene phonecalls before he kills off the pretty coeds. Directed by Bob Clark (of Porky’s and A Christmas Story fame) this film was one of the main blueprints for the future 80s slasher craze along with early 70s Italian giallo cinema which came before it and Halloween which followed it four years later. Starring Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea and John Saxon.
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Blazing Saddles (Dir: Mel Brooks)

In 1874, the dastardly State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Corman) convinces dimwitted Governor LePetomane (Mel Brooks) to appoint a black Sheriff named Bart (Cleavon Little) to uphold law in the small town of Rock Ridge. Lamarr’s chief aim is to get the townspeople to leave so he can then buy the land and own a piece of the new railroad that will be passing through it. Only he doesn’t realize that this foolproof plan will be thwarted by Sheriff Bart and his new friend, a down on his luck drunk, who was once The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder), fastest gun in The West (until he was shot in the ass by a little boy). Together, the pals use all their wits to get the ignorant townspeople on their side while Lamarr and his minion of diabolical dungheaded dopes including Taggart (Slim Pickens) and Lyle (Burton Gilliam) think of ways to wreak havoc and drive the residents out.

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Thieves Like Us (Dir: Robert Altman)

Keith Carradine stars as Bowie a young criminal who escapes from a Mississippi chaingang along with two cohorts in the 1930s. While on the run, they hide out at a gas station where Bowie meets Keechie (Shelly Duvall), the daughter of the station’s attendant. The two soon fall in love but Bowie’s deadly lifestyle causes friction between them. As Bowie and his pals continue to commit robberies the law begins closing in. This film could be described as Altman’s own take on Bonnie and Clyde. Although its not as thrilling and visceral, its a quieter, more introspective gem that fans of the late director will want to see. Co-starring John Schuck, Bert Remsen, Louise Fletcher, Tom Skerritt.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Dir: Tobe Hooper)

A group of freewheeling Texas teenagers find themselves the victims of a reclusive psychotic hillbilly family that have a strong taste for human flesh in this darkly funny, nearly bloodless, low budget horror classic. Starring Marilyn Burns, Paul Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow and Gunnar Hansen.

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Stone (Dir: Sandy Harbutt)

This 1974 Ozploitation gem is essentially the only one of its kind. The story focuses on a biker gang called The Gravediggers who are being assassinated one by one. Enter a clean cut undercover cop named Stone (Ken Shorter) who is sent to find out who is behind the killings. Stone undergoes a life changing experience as he spends time with the gang and gets closer with the members. A main aspect that set this movie apart from the American movies is the actual bikes the gang ride, instead of Harley choppers, they’ve got Kawasaki 900s. The film is particularly special because it was able to capture a certain period in Aussie biker culture that was never seen again. Co-starring Sandy Harbutt, Hugh Keays-Byrne.

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Caged Heat (Dir: Jonathan Demme)

In this sexploitation cult classic Erica Gavin stars as Jaqueline Wilson, a woman who has been sent to prison for drug charges. Upon her arrival at the women’s detention facility, Wilson gets to know her fellow inmmates (Juanita Brown, Roberta Collins, Rainbeaux Smith) in an intimate manner. The group soon rally together against the sadistic warden (Barbara Steele) who tries to control the prisoners through cruel policies. This film stands out from the many entries in the Women In Prison genre due to its underlying themes of feminism and social activism.

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California Split (Dir: Robert Altman)

Bill Denny (George Segal) and Charlie Waters (Elliot Gould) both have a gambling addiction. The movie really doesn’t have any specific plot, it simply follows these guys as they play poker and the lengths they go to win. The real fun is watching them go on these little outings to different casinos and seeing their personal quirks and how they interact with people and each other. Many of the extras in the film were actual members of Synanon, a group for ex-addicts and I think this just made it all the more authentic. By watching this movie you can see why people can get hooked so easy. It’s the obsession, the compulsion, the thrill of the dare and potential payoffs that could have you sitting pretty. Gould and Segal are a perfect onscreen team and are very funny in their portrayals. For some reason the movie flows especially well and its the kind you can revisit every once in awhile and enjoy it all over again like it was the first time. We use the word “gem” often to describe movies we like a lot, well this film really deserves that description. Co-starring Ann Prentiss and Gwen Welles.

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The Taking of Pelham 123 (Dir: Joseph Sargent)

In one of the great heist films of the 1970s, Walter Matthau is Zachary Garber, a NYC transit police officer who is stuck trying to mediate an out of control situation after a band of criminals (played by Robert Shaw, Hector Elizondo, Earl Hindman and Martin Balsam) hijack a subway train for ransom. The robbers all have color coded names, like Mr. Gray, Mr. Green etc (this detail would be later be paid homage to by Quentin Tarantino in his 1992 heist film Reservoir Dogs). The score by David Shire provides a furiously funky sound that helps drive this fast paced crime thriller. Remade in 2009 by Tony Scott.

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Chinatown (Dir: Roman Polanski)

Jack Nicholson stars as J.J. “Jake” Gittes, a Los Angeles gumshoe in 1930s San Francisco, who is hired to keep tabs on Hollis Mulwray an engineer for the cities’ Department of Water and Power. After Mulwray is later found murdered, Gittes decides to continue investigating and find out who was responsible for the killing. As he delves further into the dealings of Mulwray, he finds himself in the center of a storm of corruption and mysterious family secrets. Filled with great performances, superb direction and a magnificent screenplay by Robert Towne, this is a classic movie that film fans definitely should see. Co-starring Faye Dunaway, Burt Young, James Hong and John Huston.
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Cockfighter (Dir: Monte Hellman)

Based on a novel by Charles Willeford, Warren Oates stars as Frank Mansfield, a mute cockfighting contestant that loses all his money and must go on the road again to win the esteemed Cockighter of the Year award. Co-starring Harry Dean Stanton, Laurie Bird, Ed Begley Jr and Steve Railsback.

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Young Frankenstein (Dir: Mel Brooks)

Gene Wilder plays Frederick Frankenstein the grandson of the infamous mad scientist Victor Frankenstein. Unlike his deranged relative, Frederick is a respectable medical lecturer who adheres to the laws of his trade. In a strange twist of fate, Frederick finds himself at his grandfather’s home after he is informed of his inheritance of the families’ property in Transylvania. It’s there he meets his new servant Eyegor (Marty Feldman), a cute German frauelein assistant Inga (Terri Garr) and a strange old maid who has been in the service of his family for years, Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman). As Frederick learns more about his grandfather Victor’s work, he becomes inspired to actually try to follow in his footsteps and re-animate a dead man himself. Mel Brooks does a brilliant satirical homage to the original Frankenstein injecting the proceedings with all kinds of hysterically funny gags and riffs on the sequences we’ve seen before.

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Crazy Joe (Dir: Carlo Lizzani)

Peter Boyle gives a knockout performance as legendary mobster Joey Gallo in this cult crime film. The story follows Gallo as he returns to New York City after a prison stint and begins a climb up through the ranks of the Italian mafia. His wreckless, bold moves soon cause his fellow mob associates as well as his longtime enemies to try to strike back at him. Co-starring Eli Wallach, Fred Williamson, Henry Winkler, Paula Prentiss.
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Death Wish (Dir: Michael Winner)

Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) a mild mannered New York City based architect seems to have it all. His idyllic life is suddenly thrown into turmoil when a gang of sadistic teenage punks (one played by a young Jeff Goldblum) break into his apartment and assault his wife and daughter. The aftermath shatters Kersey who was always an extremely liberal, peace loving citizen. He soon becomes consumed with grief and anger at the injustice around him and decides to take his own kind of personal action. He hits the streets armed with a pistol given to him as a gift and tries to protect the innocent by killing as many criminals as possible. Death Wish is a classic American revenge tale that’s been copied and reinvented many times over the years.
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Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (Dir: Peter Hough)

Larry Rayder (Peter Fonda) is a race car driver who needs a nice chunk of money to get back into the NASCAR circuit. His plan is to rob a supermarket along with his faithful auto mechanic Deke (Adam Roarke). Meanwhile, Larry’s latest fling, Mary (Susan George) decides to tag along on the criminal excursion. Their heist goes off as intended, but soon with Larry’s wreckless personality the police become involved led by the surly Captain Franklin (Vic Morrow) who makes it his personal aim in life to take the three outlaws down. The movie is one long chase packed with live action car stunts that make today’s CGI bullshit look like exactly what it is. The dialogue and interaction between the lead players is a main factor that just adds to the fun. Fonda’s Larry is a rebel with a mouth to match his motor, constantly cracking jokes. This one is a 70s drive-in masterpiece.
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F For Fake (Dir: Orson Welles)

Not so much a documentary as a stylized film essay, Orson Welles is captivating as usual in the last film which he co-wrote, directed and starred in about the topics of art forgery, authorship, illusion and mystery. Newly released on Hi-Def Blu Ray by Criterion.
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Female Trouble (Dir: John Waters)

The late great Divine stars as Dawn Davenport a young lady who doesn’t get the cha cha heels she wants for Christmas and runs away from home to start a life of crime. While living outside the law Dawn has an illegitimate child, gets her face scarred by acid, and becomes a performer in a stageshow run by fascist salon owners. Sounds great doesn’t it? This is another early cult classic from John Waters that is all kinds of bizarre. Co-starring David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, Cookie Mueller, Susan Walsh.
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Freebie and the Bean (Dir: Richard Rush)

Many years before the buddy cop genre became popular in the 80s, this raucously fun action-crime movie set the mark. James Caan is Freebie and Alan Arkin is Bean, two rebellious San Francisco cops who are on an assignment to investigate racketeer Red Meyers (Jack Kruschen). Meanwhile Bean is suspicious that his wife (Valerie Harper) is having an affair which adds to the growing tension. This movie is a cult classic due to its freewheeling, darkly funny tone and highly destructive action scenes, one of which involves Freebie and Bean crashing their car in a building next to a freeway. Co-starring Loretta Swit, Christopher Morely, Alex Rocco, Valerie Harper.
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Foxy Brown (Dir: Jack Hill)

When her government informant boyfriend is murdered, young beautiful woman Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) decides to seek revenge on those responsible using her sexy charms mixed with tough as nails attitude. This film is one of the crown jewels of the 70s Blaxploitation era and immensely rewatchable. Co-starring Antonio Fargas, Kathryn Loder, Juantita Brown, Peter Brown, Sid Haig.
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The Gambler (Dir: Karel Reisz)

James Caan delivers one of his best performances in this intense character study of a gambling addict named Axel Freed. Writer James Toback based the story on his own experiences. The result is an extremely realistic portrait of the way people with this sickness go through obsessive/compulsive actions that are ultimately self destructive. Co-starring Lauren Hutton, Paul Sorvino, Burt Young, Antonio Fargas, James Woods.
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The Godfather Part II (Dir: Francis Ford Coppola)

In this Academy Award winning follow up, Michael Coreleone (Al Pacino) moves his powerful crime family to Nevada where he continues his ruthless rise to power in the mafia through bribes and assassinations. An exceptional sequel with cinema storytelling that is superbly directed, acted, scored. Co-starring Talia Shire, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Lee Strasberg.

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Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia (Dir: Sam Peckinpah)

When powerful Mexican leader El Jefe (Emilio Fernandez) finds out his daughter was impregnated by a man named Alfredo Garcia, he offers 1 million dollars as a reward to anyone who brings his severed head to him. Enter Bennie (Warren Oates) an Army vet living in Mexico working as a piano player. When he learns of the reward for Garcia, he quickly jumps into action and takes his lover, Elita (Isla Vega) a prostitute (who knows where Garcia is) along with him. An offbeat, tequila soaked, neo noir South of the Border adventure that is one of the only films Peckinpah made which was completed without any studio interference. The story goes that Oates’ portrayal of Bennie was his imitation of Peckinpah. Co-starring Robert Webber, Gig Young.

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Abby (Dir: William Girdler)

In this Blaxploitation spin on the smash horror hit The Exorcist (1973), an ancient evil spirit is unleashed and takes possession of a young woman named Abby (Carol Speed). She transforms from a productive, law abiding citizen into a demonic voiced, horny devil in heels. If any classic exploitation film deserves a hi-def Blu Ray release, it’s this one! Where is it? Co-starring William Marshall (Blacula).

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It’s Alive (Dir: Larry Cohen)

Frank Davis (John Ryan) and his wife Lenore (Sharon Farrell) are close to having their second child. What should be a joyous situation soon turns to sheer horror when the deformed newborn arrives and immediately kills the doctors and nurses at the hospital. This starts a string of random killings and a massive police search as the monstrous mutated baby makes its way to the Davis home. This low budget horror effort is a non stop suspense filled cult classic. TRIVIA: Larry Cohen’s girlfriend played the baby via special mask.

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Lenny (Dir: Bob Fosse)

Dustin Hoffman takes on the extremely daring role of the controversial legendary comedian Lenny Bruce in this gem. Fosse chose to shoot the movie in a black and white faux documentary style to create a mood of intimacy and realism. Hoffman gives a truly brilliant, uninhibited performance as the late embattled, drug addicted comic.
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Macon County Line (Dir: Richard Compton)

In the summer of 1954, brothers Chris (Alan Vint) and Wayne Dixon (Jesse Vint) go on a two week road trip for fun before they enter the Air Force. On their way through the backroads of Louisiana they pick up a hitchhiker (Cheryl Waters) and are suspected of a murder they didn’t commit by a sadistic sheriff (Max Baer Jr).

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Harry and Tonto (Dir: Paul Mazursky)

After he’s kicked out of his New York City apartment, senior citizen Harry (Art Carney) and his pet cat Tonto go on the road staying with family and meeting different strangers along the way. While the film is not furious with action or suspense it is furious with charm, humor and great performances. Co-starring Ellen Burstyn, Josh Mostel, Chief Dan George and Larry Hagman.
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Mr Majestyk (Dir: Richard Fleischer)
Charles Bronson plays a Vietnam vet turned melon farmer who gets caught up in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a feared mobster. Majestyk is easily one of Bronson’s greatest iconic characters. A tough as nails rebel that doesn’t back down to anyone that stands in his way. Co-starring Al Lettieri, Paul Koslo and Linda Cristal.
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The Parallax View (Dir: Alan Pakula)

Warren Beatty plays newspaper reporter Joe Frady whose ex-girlfriend Lee (Paula Prentiss) meets with him three years after she saw the public assassination of a presidential candidate. She is scared and conveys her reasons for thinking it was a conspiracy since many of her fellow witnesses have died under mysterious circumstances. Soon after their discussion, Lee is found dead and Joe decides to investigate. The clues she gave lead him to The Parallax Corporation, a shadowy organization that hides an evil agenda. The closer Joe gets to the truth, the more he finds himself in peril. It’s a suspense filled political thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat for its entire running time. Co-starring William Daniels, Bill McKinney, Earl Hindman and Hume Cronyn.
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The Phantom of the Paradise (Dir: Brian DePalma)

Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a singer-songwriter who has developed a whole musical based on the old story of Faust but with a modern twist. When he brings the idea to Swan (Paul Williams) a Phil Spector-esque music impresario with an ego the size of Jupiter, Winslow is under the impression it will be his big break. While at Swan’s auditions for Faust, he meets a pretty girl named Phoenix (Jessica Harper) that is up for a part. Things soon go bad when the diabolical Swan steals Winslow’s music and has him arrested and thrown in prison. After escaping from Sing Sing and breaking into Swan’s record factory, Winslow is accidentally disfigured in a record press and nearly dies. He somehow evades capture and recuperates from his injuries. The vengeful, crazed Winslow then steals a costume from Swan’s new rock palace and begins wreaking havoc on all the acts hired to perform his grand opera about Faust. The film brilliantly combines ideas from Phantom of The Opera and The Picture of Dorian Gray with 70s Glam/Horror Rock, Giallo Cinema and Black Comedy in a phantastic DePalma way only he could design. One of the main highlights is the supercool 70s soundtrack written by co-star Paul Williams.
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The Streetfighter (Dir: Shigehiro Ozawa)

Sonny Chiba is the Anti Bruce Lee. In this cult classic, he plays the infamous Terry Tsurugi, Assassin for hire. In this first film in the trilogy, Terry is caught in the center of a war with the yakuza and a personal vendetta from Junjo, a rival killer that is out to kill him for the death of his brother. A wildly exploitive Japanese karate cult classic that is filled with bloody, bone breaking fights and an incredibly flamboyant performance by Sonny Chiba.

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The Longest Yard (Dir: Robert Aldrich)

Burt Reynolds is Paul “Wrecking” Crewe a former pro star football quarterback. After walking out on his girlfriend (Anitra Ford), Crewe steals her sportscar and is chased by the cops. Following his arrest, he is sent to prison for a term of 18 months. Crewe is disliked by his fellow inmates due to his dismissal from the NFL for points shaving. He is approached by the warden (Eddie Albert) to lead a semi-pro prison football team to help win a championship. Crewe relents at this but then agrees and starts a prisoner team as a way to help the guards work on their game. Co-starring James Hampton, Richard Kiel, Charles Tyner, Bernadette Peters, Pepper Martin. The film was remade in 2005 by Adam Sandler w/ Burt Reynolds in a cameo.

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The Conversation (Dir: Francis Ford Coppola)

Gene Hackman stars as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert who finds himself at odds with a client when his latest job may involve a murder plot. Gene Hackman gives an excellent performance as the quiet, stoic Harry. The supporting cast features Godfather alum John Cazale as Harry’s co-worker, Allen Garfield and early appearances from Frederic Forrest, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford and Terri Garr.

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Gone in 60 Seconds (Dir: H.B. Halicki)

The late H.B. Halicki independently financed, directed and starred in this carsploitation classic. His character Maindrian Pace is an auto insurance investigator who has a little job on the side: he’s a master car thief. The story centers around a plan to steal a large number of cars in a short amount of time but the movie’s main highlight is the 34 minute car chase with Pace and the cops that features the legendary Ford Mustang Mach I nicknamed “Eleanor”. The film was remade in 2000 and starred Nicolas Cage. I think it’s actually a really entertaining update of the original. Both films are recommended to car movie fans.

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Truck Turner (Dir: Jonathan Kaplan)

The late great singer/composer/actor Isaac Hayes stars as Mack “Truck” Turner, a skip tracer (bounty hunter) in the greater Los Angeles area. Before he became a criminal catcher, Truck was an all star football player, which is where he earned his nickname. Truck gets his assignments from Nate Dinnwittie (Sam Laws), a bail bondsman. Truck’s latest target is a pimp/drug dealer named Gator (Paul Harris). Gator’s top trick is Dorinda (Nichelle Nichols) and she can easily be described as a super bitch. She takes no shit from anyone and is about as sweet as piss n’ vinegar. When Truck kills Gator in a shoot Dorinda plans to take her revenge on Truck by any means necessary. Her plan is to bring all the biggest pimps/hustlers into the mix and make a deal to give whichever one kills Truck a part of her high class pimpin’ business. Enter Harvard Blue (Yaphet Kotto) who steps up to the plate to bring Truck down. Harvard has his own rogues gallery of underworld vermin to destroy Truck’s inner circle of friends. This is an action packed Blaxploitation classic.

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A Woman Under The Influence (Dir: John Cassavetes)

The story of Mabel (Gena Rowlands) a stay at home mother and her husband Nick (Peter Falk) a construction worker. What Nick first sees as Mabel being eccentric and silly soon changes to a deep concern as she sinks deeper into declining mental health. Nick finally decides to have her committed to an institution so she can get help leaving him alone to take care of their rambunctious kids. A brilliant performance by Gena Rowlands.

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The Towering Inferno (Dir: John Guillermin)

When it comes to disaster films, Producer Irwin Allen held the trophy for making the best in the genre. A super skyscraper’s electrical system is shoddy because of bad planning, thus causing a perfect recipe for catastrophe. The cast of iconic actors is really what makes this simple story work so well. Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain, and William Holden play the people who get stuck in the highrise as a furious fire engulfs them from top and bottom. The FX in the film are equally enormous. An incredible amount of fires, water floods, random bodies falling, things exploding everywhere. You can’t ask for much more from a 70s disaster movie!

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Peter

Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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