The eight great movie wonders of '77 PDF Print E-mail
Written by DENISE A. RAYMO, Staff Writer   
Sunday, April 01, 2007

Eight of the most-popular movies of all time came out in 1977, and they changed American fashion, music, communication and imagination.
Partially gleaned from the "Video Hound's Golden Movie Retriever" edited by Jim Craddock, here is a brief, alphabetical look at each of those films:

  • "Annie Hall" — An episodic, wistful comedy commenting on love, family, loneliness, communicating, maturity, driving, city life careers and various other topics. And it had women rushing to second-hand stores to buy up men's clothing so they could look like Diane Keaton's aspiring singer.

  • Men found hope that they could snag a girl like Annie, but they would find a way to keep her, unlike hapless comedy writer Alvy Singer (Woody Allen.) Tony Roberts, obsessed with relaying his whereabouts to someone, Jeff Goldblum as a cocktail-party guest and Christopher Walken as Keaton's suicidal brother nearly steal the picture, which is crammed with other classic moments.
  • "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" — Middle-American strangers become involved in the attempts of benevolent aliens to contact earthlings. This Spielberg epic is a stirring achievement. Special effects dazzled audiences and triggered their imaginations about what is out there as they watched everyman Richard Dreyfuss go from bewildered to obsessed with the mystery of the otherworldly presence accompanied by five of the most familiar musical notes heard in film.
  • "The Gauntlet" — A cop is ordered to Las Vegas to bring back a key witness to an important trial, but the witness turns out to be a beautiful prostitute being hunted by killers. This might be the guiltiest of guilty-pleasure movies for guys.

  • Clint Eastwood is swell as Ben Shockley, who has nearly washed out of his career. After capturing reluctant witness Gus Mally (Sondra Locke) and escaping an ambush that destroys her home with gunfire, Shockley wages a war against his double-crossing bosses and his own self-loathing to get his job done.
    Before the phrase action hero was attributed to Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood created a series of memorable, flawed characters that both genders and all generations have embraced.
  • "The Goodbye Girl" — Neil Simon's story of a former actress, her precocious 9-year-old daughter and the aspiring actor who moves in with them.

  • From the moment Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss) snatched panties off the shower rod and set the ground rules for his future living arrangement with single mother and daughter Paula and Lucy McFadden (Marsha Mason and Quinn Cummings), he bounded into the hearts of audiences everywhere.
    With the divorce rate climbing and Free Love not too far in the past, the definition of family changed in the 1970s.
    More couples were living together without the benefit of marriage, and some coming out of failed relationships wondered if they could ever trust, or love, again.
  • "Saturday Night Fever" — A Brooklyn teen-ager, bored with his day-time job, becomes the night-time king of the local disco.

  • From the second you see the paint cans swaying and hear the Bee Gees music as Tony Manero (John Travolta) struts down the street, you know you're in for something different.
    Tony seems to embody the panic felt when children realize they could end up like their parents if they don't find a way out.
    He comes alive on the dance floor and realizes this is his shot to break away and have the life he wants.
    Perhaps no other movie hit theaters at exactly the right moment in history with its fashion, music and attitudes toward sex. It may be just as much of a product of the times as it was a reflection of them.
  • "Slap Shot" — Profane satire of the world of professional hockey is charming in its own bone-crunching way. Has-been player-coach Reg Dunlop (Paul Newman) takes the helm of a losing minor-league team and encourages his reluctant players to play dirty in order to win, and the fans love it.

  • This film used the human body as a weapon like many teams in the National Hockey League in the late '70s.
    Their frequent on-ice brawls satisfied fans' bloodlust and became precursor to the success of professional wrestling and ultimate fighting today.

  • "Smokey and the Bandit" — The first and best of the horrible series about a bootlegger is one long car chase. Sometimes instead of reflecting trends, a movie creates one. Up to that point in America, citizen-band radios had been used mostly by long-distance truckers.

  • But everyone had to have one once The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) used his CB to outsmart Smokey Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason).
    In addition to changing the language, it glorified the rebel on the fringes of the law and sparked other Southern good ol' boy entertainment like "The Dukes of Hazzard."

  • "Star Wars" — A young hero, a captured princess, a hot-shot pilot, cute robots, a vile villain and a mysterious Jedi knight blend together with marvelous special effects in a fantasy tale.

  • "Star Wars" is a return to old Buck Rogers serials of early cinema or a modern swashbuckler where pirate ships are replaced by space ships.
    The eye-popping effects and story had people standing in lines for hours to get into the theater, and no other film had audiences coming back countless times to see it again.
    Creatures never seen or imagined before came to life, using new camera and modeling technology that seems quaint by today's standards. But the sights and sounds were ground-breaking and gave us a glimpse of what was to come.



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