Forgotten Classics Of The 70s

I’ve been on a huge 70s movie kick lately, fuel half by nostalgia for the period and half by the insanely high quality of output of American movies in that period. But the classics - your Godfathers, your Jawses, your Clockworks Orange - I’ve seen way too much, so I’m trying to dig into some of the overlooked stuff.

So far, I think I can make a case for Michael Ritchie as the criminally forgotten auteur of the period. Sure, everybody’s seen The Bad News Bears, but anybody ever see Smile? Fantastic Altman-esque comedy about a small-town beauty pageant, with Bruce Dern as a used-car salesman. I was passingly familiar with the other Ritchie movies of the 70s (Downhill Racer, The Candidate, Prime Cuts, Semi-Tough, etc.) but I had somehow never even heard of Smile, and I can’t recommend it enough.

The other great find was Night Moves - Arthur Penn flick from the same year as Smile, with Gene Hackman as a sad-sack private dick with marital problems.* I’ll watch pretty much anything with Gene Hackman, and this sets itself up as a low-key mystery, but the ending is pure 70s awesomeness, tapping into an almost existential feeling of emptiness pushes it into The Conversation territory.

So, any other great 70s forgotten classics you can recommend?

  • He’s married to Susan Clark, who looked really familiar to both me and my wife. Halfway through, we both figured out where we knew her from: my wife recognized her from Webster… and I remembered she was Cherry Forever from Porky’s.

I’ll nominate The Final Programme, director Robert Fuest’s take on Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius books.

I’m sure there are some out there who despise the film (particularly the way it fudges the ending), but I really dig this flick. Out of print on DVD, unfortunately, but someone seems to have uploaded it to YouTube.

Final Programme - part 1 of 10

I love this thread already, but I’m afraid I remember Night Moves very well (Netflix instant watch it here, bitches!). I’m sad if it’s considered a “forgotten” classic. Next time, put me in charge of the remembering plz.

Now I have to check out Smile and Final Programme.


Night Moves had somehow passed me by. I certainly never heard it referred to as much as his previous movies like Little Big Man, Bonnie & Clyde and Alice’s Restaurant, for some reason.

The Final Programme is crazy. I couldn’t possibly recommend it to anybody, but I’ll grant that outside of maybe Jodorowsky there’s really nothing else like it.

Tee hee - my other recommendations would have been El Topo or Holy Mountain.

Goddamn, Holy Mountain. My white whale. I have sat down and tried to get through it easily a dozen times, but I usually only make it as far as the shit-heavy alchemy scene.

I recently watched and enjoyed the hell out of The Last of Sheila, a puzzle box of a film where even the title is a clue.

Oh yea, shit into gold - great scene! Seriously, though - the last shot of the film totally makes it worth it.

Colossus: The Forbin Project

I saw this once a few years ago and it’s stuck with me. I really need to track it down for a second viewing.

It’s not quite truly forgotten, but when it comes to random geek talk about 70’s science fiction movies (2001, Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, etc), I don’t think Silent Running is brought up nearly as much as it deserves.

Capricorn One. The government is trying to kill OJ Simpson to cover up a faked mission to Mars! Seriously.

This makes a good double feature with Demon Seed.

Scarecrow, a film starring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino as two drifters heading to Pittsburg with dreams of starting thier own business. Worth it to see these two actors and their different approaches to acting dovetail nicely.

Love this movie! Any film with Hal Holbrook as a villain gets an automatic thumbs up anyway. Bonus points for Telly Savalas in it too.

The first thing that pops into my head, a movie that screams 70s, is ‘Empire of the Ants’: The film is disjointed and has horrible special effects, but is based on an HG Wells story, is directed by Bert Gordon, and stars Joan Collins!

Capricon One? Silent Running? Demon Seed? These movies are forgotten? Maybe I’m just too much of a movie wonk, but all three of those strike me as flat-out classics. I can imagine someone in his 20s not knowing them, but I’d hope that any self-respecting nerd who’s our age remembers them well.

I mean, the helicopters in Capricorn One? Demon Seed as a classic rogue AI horror movie with freaky sexual undertones (Saturn 3 has nothing on Demon Seed!)? And the obvious influence Silent Running had on both System Shock and Bioshock? Not to mention Douglas Trumball’s and John Dyskstra’s special effects before they did Close Encounters and Star Wars?

I love that you guys have mentioned these movies, but I hate to think they’re considered “forgotten” classics. :(

Excuse me, there are kids on my lawn I have to go yell at.


Nah, I’m with you, Tom. What I’m looking for is movies I’ve literally never heard of, or only vaguely recall seeing the title of but haven’t actually seen. They still show Capricorn One on cable reasonably often.

That said, tip o’ the hat to Chuck and Eric P. for their recommendations. That’s the kind of thing I’m looking for. The Last Of Sheila sounds particularly wacky - written by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim? Ian McShane is in it? Sign me up!

I never thought Capricorn One was all that special - the whole paranoid conspiracy fake moon/mars landing scenario never did anything for me. It was worth a watch, but if it’s forgotten, it’s because it isn’t a classic - not that I’d call it forgotten. The Parallax View (1974) was the better paranoid conspiracy movie by far.

Demon Seed seems to be dependent on the whole robotic rape/kinky sexual undertone theme - I didn’t find it as good of a movie as perhaps it sounds on paper. Maybe I found Robert Vaughn’s voice too distinctive and I could never think of it as anything but him sitting behind a microphone just off-screen rather than a disembodied computer-voice. “When are you going to open Channel D and let me out of this box!”

The forgotten one is forgotten because it didn’t get all that much attention at the time. Silent Running. Yeah, all us science fiction/special effects fans went and saw it, but it didn’t do all that well if I recall correctly - it certainly never got that much air play on television either. Great effects, Bruce Dern carried the film (still type-cast as the crazy), but the script was so-so. Still, if I was going to call one of these a forgotten classic, this would be the one.

I think of this as Douglas Trumbull keeping his hand in the special effects field post 2001: A Space Odyssey rather than as a prelude to the blockbusters that were to come later in the decade.

I always liked Rollercoaster. It had a laidback vibe to it, neither Timothy Bottoms(also great in The Paper Chase) nor George Segal overplay anything. Helen Hunt first appeared on my radar in this movie too.

Night of the Lepus, and Bugs as a double feature.

Lepus is about Dr. McCoy vs giant flesh eating rabbits in the southwest. Bugs is about explosive cockroaches that come up from the depths of the earth and… kinda burn stuff.

I’d also call the Dolemite movies 70’s dubious classics. Avenging Disco Godfather, anyone?

Parralax View. Or Effect.

I wouldn’t call this a forgotten classic more than an obscure cult film, or it least it would be a cult film if it wasn’t too obscure to rate even that. Equinox (1970) - young people go into the woods, discover a dangerous book and evil things come after them to get it (if it sounds Evil Deadish, keep in mind this predated Evil Dead by more than a decade)! Did have Fritz Leiber, though. I went to see this at the Long Beach grindhouse of my High School days - the Rivoli - always 49 cents, tie your shoes on real tight or the floor would grab them and keep them forever like some demented monster. I wasn’t expected stop-motion animation in this cheapie (rare enough at that time, much less in something far south of even a B budget).