A Fool's Utopia 03.07.13: Must See Horror - The 70s
Posted by Ron Martin on 03.07.2013
This week in one man's utopia, we take a look at the must see horror films released during the 1970s, JJ Abrams directing Star Wars, The Worst Cooks in America and the urban legend of whether or not a video exists for Dj Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's "Nightmare on My Street."
I am going to set aside my nostalgia for all things 1980s aside for the moment and face some truths. Broken down by decades, the 1970s was by and far the best for horror. Sorry kids, that's not debatable. This will be the longest of the lists. Again, this isn't a list of really good horror movies or horror movies I love. This is a list of horror movies that if you tell me that you are a horror fan, I would expect you to have seen.
The Exorcist, 1973
Today's horror movie goer may not understand why The Exorcist was such a big deal in the 70s. It has a very 70s pacing about it and what was considered "pushing the edge" may feel tame to the kids that grew up with Saw and Hostel. A movie that had its audiences passing out and getting sick no matter what the time period is a horror movie that you need to see. Not to mention that there has been a rash of exorcism movies in the last decade mostly due to the 25th anniversary of The Exorcist. Plain and simple, there isn't an exorcism horror movie that isn't influenced by The Exorcist.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974
Remember mostly for the antics and story of Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a gritty and disturbing film. It may not have made the audience quite as uncomfortable as The Exorcist, but it came close. It also introduced the chainsaw as a deadly weapon that has been used at the end of every commercial haunted house in history ever since. Many have attempted to duplicate the feel that Tobe Hooper created. Even Hooper himself hasn't been able to duplicate it.
Black Christmas, 1974
This is must see just because it basically sets up the formula for the modern day slasher flick that would be used for the next 30+ years. The fact that the prank calls are still creepy and we still don't know the motive of the killer is a boon to how well this film was made. While they may have been present earlier, slasher cliches like inept police officers, deliquents getting killed off one at a time and killer POV was all put together in this film, thus beginning the evolution of the slasher flick as we know it today.
Like with another movie that will come later on the list, some may argue this is not horror. Jaws is hard to define. In my mind, any movie that makes you rethink going swimming in the ocean counts as horror. Perhaps no musical score is as recognizable and very few movies are as quotable. If you haven't seen Jaws, what the hell have you been doing since you were born? It makes me scared of the water and I'm 1000 miles inland.
The Omen, 1976
If you tell me you're a horror fan and I say "Look at me Damien! It's all for you!" and you don't know what I'm talking about – the conversation is over.
John Carpenter's classic is a no brainer. Black Christmas may have set up what would become the modern day slasher formula, but Halloween perfected it. It's the movie that would set up the slasher heavy 80s, make Jamie Lee Curtis a star and Michael Myers a household name as well as making Carpenter a player in Hollywood. What more could you ask for from a film?
Dawn of the Dead, 1978
I was reluctant to add this to the list because I think if you only see one George Romero film, it should be Night of the Living Dead just because of the influence it had on movies. It can be argued without that film, we wouldn't have zombies today. Dawn, however, is Romero's best film. It's also the breakout film for Tom Savini as a special effects/makeup artist. Remember – it's not the dead that dangerous, it's the living!
Some might consider this science fiction instead of horror, but anything that has an alien bursting through a guy's stomach and gives children nightmares to the point that it would take them thirty years to watch another Alien movie is on the horror must see list. This movie had the same effect on space that Jaws had on swimming in the ocean – no one still has been to deep space. Some say because of technology. I say because of Alien.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (movies that while not a necessity, give you extra horror street cred): Suspiria, Carrie, The Hills Have Eyes, The Wicker Man
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
1. I know this was announced awhile ago, but I'm a little disappointed with the choice of JJ Abrams as director for Star Wars VII. I'm happy that the direction they are going to go in (reportedly) are with the Solo and Skywalker children, as I believe that's the direction the expanded universe books head in. Not that those books are canon or anything – hell, maybe they are. Who knows?
Back to my original point – I feel like JJ Abrams is a copout choice. It seems like Disney was dead set on getting a "name" director for the project. I think I would preferred them to give the project to a young, up and coming director to make a name off of it. If everyone hates the new movie, does it really hurt Abrams? Abrams name has been on plenty of projects that have bombed (Alcatraz, anyone?) and it never hurts his stock. Only Disney and the Star Wars franchise can be hurt by another bad movie. I am now less excited for this film because of this. I'm JJ Abrams-ed out.
2. Good news for one of my favorite cities to visit, Salem, MA, as it looks as if the third season of American Horror Story with the addition of Kathy Bates to the cast will be set there. Toss in Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem coming out this year and a TLC reality show in the works about witches in Salem and the town will be getting a lot of attention this year. That's good news for my side project I'm working on – which I will be announcing soon.
3. STEPHEN KING THOUGHTS:
a. I am truly worried about Under the Dome. First of all, the book had a terrible ending. I am a loyal Stephen King fan, but I got to call a spade a spade. It's a great book for about 950 pages, then it falls apart. Second, I don't like the series format. If it were a mini-series I would be less worried, but the fact that it's a TV season scares me. One of two things can happen 1) It gets no ratings and CBS cancels it, so who cares? 2) It gets ratings and CBS renews it – and that's the worst possible scenario. What happens when the show goes through the King book but has to produce new episodes? Other people get involved. We all know that the further you get from the King book, the worst the outcome. It's going to be a disaster, but a disaster that I will watch.
b. On the flip side of that, I am anxiously looking forward to the big screen version of Cell. It's a new and interesting take on zombies. In a world where zombies are beginning to be overused (like vampires), it will be nice to get a fresh take. If you haven't read the book, the zombies are more of the "infected" variety but share some interesting abilities that we haven't seen in zombies before.
c. Still up in the air on Doctor Sleep. I'm sure I'll get around to reading it at some point in time, but I'm not sure The Shining called for a sequel. Is anyone clamoring to know what happened to Danny Torrance?
4. SPORTS THOUGHTS:
a. As I prepare to go for the unheard of "threepeat" in my NCAA bracket pool, I fear the parity of college basketball this year. Just when you thought a team had asserted itself (Indiana) as the favorite, they go an lose at Minnesota and drop their second home loss of the season to Ohio State. Neither of those losses are bad losses, but the boys aren't playing their best ball at the most important time of the season. It's going to make bracket filling that much more difficult.
b. Not that Gonzaga doesn't deserve the #1 ranking, but does anyone really think they are going to make it to the Final Four?
c. I'd really like to see the Colts make a run at Paul Kruger. Baltimore can't keep him, and he'd fit in well with the defense that Chuck Pagano is implementing. Plus, he used to play for Pagano, so you have to think the Colts would have an "in" when it came to signing him. I believe that GM Ryan Grigson knows what he's doing, so I'll trust in him. I've been wrong before. I swore the Colts were idiots when they took Edgerrin James over Ricky Williams – shows what I know.
d. As a person who despises the New England Patriots, not even I can say anything bad about the deal that Tom Brady made to keep his team competitive during the last years of his career. It was a smart thing to do by a guy who wants to be win one (or maybe even two?) more Super Bowls to have as many rings as Montana and Bradshaw. Probably easier to swallow when your wife is one of the highest paid models in the world.
5. The Food Network has me again. I completed Celebrity Cook Off. They threw a wrench in the works and did not even things out like I thought they would, so kudos for that. Here I am, watching Worst Cooks in America at 9 PM on Sundays. Watching these guys at work makes me feel a lot better about my culinary skills. I am sure some of it is staged or pushed in the general direction by the producers of the show, but damn – when you have a food challenge and the chef refuses to eat what you've cooked because it may be a danger to their health – that's some bad cooking, folks. I'm sure Next Food Network Star is coming up after this series is over. Just give me some River Monsters and it'll be 2011 all over again.
USELESS TRIVIA AND SHAMELESS PLUGGING
LAST WEEK'S USELESS TRIVIA
What was the original title of Night of the Living Dead?
ANSWER: Night of the Flesh Eaters. Ups again to BEN PIPER for the correct response. It was the changeover to Night of the Living Dead (at the request of the distributors) that caused the film to go into public domain. Someone forgot to add the copyright information onto the new title screen for Night of the Living Dead thus costing a lot of people a lot of money in royalties.
THIS WEEK'S USELESS TRIVIA
How many Stephen King books clock in at over 1000 pages?
THIS WEEK'S SHAMELESS PLUGGING
We've got a long way to go but The Resurrection of Zombie 7 is working its way through the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Subscribe for free on iTunes. In this week's podcast, we look at the much aligned A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, which has been called the most homoerotic horror movie ever made. Find out why by listening to the podcast!
THIS WEEK IN RETRO
While doing a podcast, I have a tendency to learn things. I learn things that I pass onto the listeners. For example, I learned why the video above doesn't have a corresponding music video, so the "video" aspect is non-existant. I remembered "A Nightmare on My Street" getting heavy radio play and even being the most requested song on my local Top 40 station for a couple of weeks in a row when it was released in 1988 as the third single off of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's breakthrough album, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper. It got to #15 on the Hot 100 – surely, there would have been a corresponding music video, right?
Not so fast.
Before we get into that, I would like to denote that I believe this song was written after the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. I believe this because of the reference to a melting alarm clock, which only happens in the second movie as well as the line "You've got the body, I've got the brains!" That line was from the second movie. The song itself only mentions the first movie ("a homeboy named Fred and a girl named Nancy") but the references make me think it was written sometime between the second and third. With the album recorded in 1987-88 and Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors not released until 1987, it makes sense. That would put the release of the single right around the time of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
The problem with that is DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince did not get consent from New Line Cinema to use the Freddy character or voice in their song. The second problem was that there was already a rap song to promote A Nightmare on Elm Street 4:
While watching the Fat Boys run from Freddy Krueger is nothing short of amazing, I know there at least had to be a concept for a similar video involving The Fresh Prince and his DJ. It's almost like an urban legend these days. People claimed to have seen it on MTV before New Line had it pulled for good. Others claim it never existed. I would think that if it played even once, there would be video out there of it online. Hell, the Star Wars Holiday Special played only once in 1977 and it's easy to get a copy of that these days.
According to an interview with DJ Jazzy Jeff, the duo had to pay New Line some money and had to listen to two movie pitched by the company that they wanted the rap group to star in. They quickly said "no thanks" and that was that. No video – or a video that was pulled after just a few airings. Depends on your belief. That and the existence of Bigfoot.
For the record, one of the movies they were offered and turned down was House Party.