Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fun in The Dark

I just read Opening Wednesday At A Theater Or Drive-In Near You, Charles Taylor's look at exploitation films from the 70's.

The titles, such as Vanishing Point, Hickey & Boggs, Foxy Brown, Ulzana's Raid, Citizen's Band and Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, were dumped into theatres without much fanfare, treated as vaguely disreputable by the studios who made them.  Yet Taylor sees something more there.

It was a different time.  Hollywood, released from censorship, was experimenting, and the films of the era--not just famous ones like The Godfather or Chinatown or Nashville--treated audiences like they were adults.  In the post-Star Wars world, according to Taylor, Hollywood makes movies for adolescents, but back then, even cheap films could have ambivalent characters, and protagonists who lose and lose big.

They also described, generally without condescension, an America that was at war with its own impulses.  Americans were searching for a sense of community that was lost (or never there to begin with) while at the same time seeking a sense of freedom and autonomy that required living outside normal society.

Taylor has always been a lively writer, and he expresses his enthusiasm for these films quite well.  He's also perceptive, making one want to take a second (or, in some cases, first) look at these films.  I question some of his arguments (both aesthetic and political), but overall, a book well worth reading.


Blogger New England Guy said...

I have only heard of those films by reputation but is the picture from another similar film Valdez Is Coming (1971)?. I think it counts as an exploitation film.

I only saw it because one summer when I was about 10 my father took us off to a SUNY Campus in Northern NY while he took some grad courses and took us all out to movie night at the student union on weekends. (Also got to see The Blob and Bela Lugosi's Chandu serial. Fell asleep during el Cid though I recall)

11:30 AM, January 17, 2018  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I saw Ulzana's Raid last year--it's where the picture in the post comes from. It was playing on a double bill with Valdez Is Coming (two Burt Lancaster films from the early 70s). Unfortunately, I couldn't stick around. I hope I didn't miss anything special.

12:12 PM, January 17, 2018  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked it as a 10 year old but if you google it, its in an article entitled "It Took Years for Hollywood to Finally Get Elmore Leonard Right."


4:28 PM, January 18, 2018  

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