Forty Years Ago Today: September 8, 1976

The Pom Pom Girls 

Directed by Joseph Ruben. Distributed by Crown International Pictures. 89 minutes.

 

1976 9-7 LAT  E11
Los Angles Times, September 7, 1976

 

1976 September 15 Variety 16
Variety, September 15, 1976

 

Boxoffice July 5, 1976, A7
Boxoffice, July 5, 1976
  • Ah, Crown International Pictures, along with American International Pictures one of the great purveyors of B-movies and exploitation stuff from this era. Crown was heavily invested in the drive-in circuit–more than half their exhibitors were drive-ins–and The Pom Pom Girls was certainly made for that audience. But… after (very successful) test screenings in the spring of 1976, Crown decided on a much wider release and more emphasis on “hardtops” instead of just drive-ins.

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  • Why not start with the title, since it’s a misspelling. Turns out the film was originally  (and correctly) called “The Pom Pon Girls,” but during test screenings theater after theater spelled it wrong. Producers shrugged and went with it.
Variety Jluy 14, 1976, 38
Variety, July 14, 1976
  • More about that title — it’s terrible! The film really isn’t about the “pom pom” girls, even though there is a subplot (sort of) about the cheerleaders. Crown founder Newton Jacobs was a big believer (like all exploitationers) in provocative film titles, and that’s certainly the case here. This is really the story of four friends at the beginning of their last year of high school, not (just) a sleazy peek at naked cheerleaders. Also, it’s really more about the journey of the two boys than the two girls. I suspect one reason this film has been forgotten is because of the title.
  • Writer/director Ruben certainly wasn’t forgotten — he moved gradually from traditional exploitation stuff like Joyride (1977) and Gorp (1980) to more refined exploitation films such as The Stepfather (1987)) and then True Believer (1989) and finally the immortal Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) and The Good Son (19930. No one will ever forget Money Train (1995).
  • The cast. What a delight. I have a soft spot for ensemble B-movies where a bunch of kids just get into adventures, and The Pom Pom Girls doesn’t disappoint. The core group — Robert Carradine, Michael Mullins, Jennifer Ashley, and Lisa Reeves — are basically a time capsule of circa-1970s drive-in movie awesomeness.
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Ashley, Carradine, Reeves, and Mullin. (Independent Film Journal, April 14, 1976)
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From left: Mullins, Ashley, Carradine, Reeves, director Ruben, producer Marilyn Tenser, and (the film’s villain) Bill Adler (Boxoffice, April 26, 1976)
  • Mullins and Carradine are presented as twin leads — but let’s talk about Carradine. At this point he was obviously well-known as the youngest of the Carradine hunks, and his charism oozes off the screen. He’s a terrific presence here, which makes it even more remarkable that only a few years later he’d make his name permanently known for Revenge of the Nerds (1984). The roles really couldn’t be more different. I wish there was a parallel universe where his performance here as Johnnie led down a different path.

From this:

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To this:

robert.carradine.revenge.of.the.nerds
Carradine in Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
  • Of course you recognize the coach, James Gammon — he was the manager in the Major League films (1989, 1994).

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Now, on to the film!

  • This is a very episodic narrative — as is typical for the genre — but there are repeated efforts to get the cheerleaders (and their bodies) in the frame so the camera can ogle them, like the opening moments on the beach, where the cheerleaders are practicing their routines. Something to keep in mind right here, straightaway: these are supposed to be high school girls. As the movie goes on, it increasingly feels like (thankfully) a lost era… particularly when the nude scenes start getting more frequent. Yikes.

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  • There’s a repeated motif throughout the film where the action will cut from the football players doing something extremely physical, usually in closeup, to a closeup of a woman’s body. By the fifth or sixth time (entire sequences are constructed like this) I was laughing pretty hard. It’s like Ruben said, let’s make a classic example of homoerotic displacement!
  • The “tryouts” sequence is such a nice little piece of 1970s filmmaking. It’s a montage of pairs and trios, all doing their own (improv’d, I’d say) cheers. Great stuff.

 

They all pale in comparison to these two, though:

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That’s an interesting moment in a film that’s otherwise chock full o’ overwhelming whiteness.

  • If movies are historical documents and records, then this is a great one for youth culture of the mid-1970s in southern California. This drive-in, Jerry’s Orangee, for example, is beautiful in shots like this one:

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  • “You seen the back of my new van? You want to?”

 

  • The long-suffering and put-upon Ms. Pritchitt (played by Sandra Lowell) is a terrific stock character teacher. In fact, all the stuff shot on location at Chaminade High School in LA is fantastic and feels very authentic.
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“Who put this whoopee cushion here?”
  • There’s a terrific montage of the whole gang having a tug-o-war over a mud pit that really captures the spirit in the film of teenagers having fun just goofing around. This is another film that clearly influenced Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, especially improvised sequences like this that are genuinely infectious in their craziness. Do people have tug-o-wars anymore?

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  • One of the main plots — if there are any — involves a prank war between two high schools. The gang steals a fire truck and uses it to spray water on the opposing football team. It makes no sense on the page, but totally works in a “you crazy kids!” sense onscreen.

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  • Singing “America the Beautiful” at the pep rally before the big game. Notice how small the student body is, which makes for some delightful “we’re putting on a show” moments throughout the film.

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  • The scene in which Johnnie uses a fake ID to buy beer is clearly a scene that Linklater references in Dazed and Confused.

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  • Love this moment.

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  • More Dazed and Confused source material: Jeff doesn’t just quit the football team, he punches out the abusive coach.

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  • High school kids screwing, smoking pot, and shotgunning beers? Check!

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  • The film’s big finale is a game of “suicide chicken” between Dwayne and Johnnie… who will stop first before driving off the cliff?

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  • It’s actually an effective twist ending that I won’t spoil here.

Overall, The Pom Pom Girls is a pretty awesome — but not totally cohesive — portrait of mid-70s high school life. Carradine is especially great as the cocky, high-energy Johnnie, and the textures and locations are a delight. Strongly recommended!

It was released forty years ago today.

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Forty Years Ago Today: August 18, 1976

Futureworld 

Directed by Richard Heffron. Distributed by American International Picutures (AIP). 106 minutes.

 

1976 8-22 LAT I39
Los Angeles Times, August 22, 1976
1976 7-30 LAT F14
Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1976
1976 7-14 Variety 20
Variety, July 14 1976
  • A sequel to Westworld (1974), even though producers called it an “extension” (which really doesn’t make sense), Futureworld started its life at MGM in 1974 while its predecessor was still in theaters. It’s all part of the weird story of James T. Aubrey, one of the great and bizarre producers/executives in Hollywood history…
  • Aubrey, the head of CBS following the quiz show scandals in the 1950s, put shows like Gilligan’s Island and The Beverley Hillbillies on the air and dominated the ratings, and had an ego to match. He was fired in 1965 for “improprieties” –he had a reputation as a party boy all over the world and was known to squire young actress around town late into the night –and later became the basis of Jaqueline Susann’s novel  The Love Machine in 1969, and the subsequent film, which was a lurid portrait of a TV executive.
  • He then got hired by Kirk Kerokorian to salvage MGM in 1969 — which he did, to great effect, even though it meant firing hundreds and selling off MGM’s cameras, props, and backlots to tremendous infamy. He also alienated directors, edited films arbitrarily and without creative justification, and generally made enemies.
  • He was responsible for getting Westworld lined up, which became a smash. Aubrey resigned in 1973, declaring his job done, before the movie was released, and went back to being an independent producer. I haven’t even talked about his connections to Howard Hughes!
  • MGM ultimately decided to drop Futureworld and focus on Logan’s Run instead; Aubrey then took the project to American International Pictures (AIP), where Samuel Arkoff must have been delighted.
  • Production took place in Houston, mostly in actual NASA facilities — which were underused at the time due to budget cuts. The producers were pretty proud of that, and talked about it incessantly in the publicity. A “three billion dollar set,” they liked to say.
  • The film itself has a simple, sequel plot: the Dalos resort is back, fixed now, and the corporate bigwigs have invited two reporters (Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner) to check it out. But — gasp! — it turns out the computers have taken over, started replacing people with robots, and now they want the whole world. The reporters must escape before their replacements kill them. The end.
  • Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, certainly mugs her way through this performance just like she always did. It’s hard to say who’s more insufferable, Fonda, a low-rent Warren Beatty, or Danner. The strange sex scene they eventually share should have a sad trombone noise accompanying it. Here’s a typical Danner expression from the film:

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  • Speaking of reporters… I love the opening, which starts in the printing shop and then moves to the news floor (presumably the Houston Chronicle). Such a picture of an obsolete technology!

 

  • There are shades here of technopanic (The Forbin Project) and journalism (All the President’s Men) and corporate thrillers (Three Days of the Condor) and even hints of government conspiracy (Capricorn One). It’s a hodgepodge, for sure, but mostly just making entertainment out of general unease about “the future.”
  • Reasons to watch this film: 1 – the sets. They are bizarre, to be sure, and oddly feel like time capsules. The film was shot at the Houston Airport, a concert hall downtown, and NASA, and, frankly, it feels like it — these don’t feel like sets or actual locations, they feel (strangely, and hard to describe, I admit) like a film crew took over these places for the weekend.
  • Boy oh boy did the producers love this shot of the “giant door opening” that used an actual Giant Door somewhere in the NASA center. They lingered on it forever in the final cut — it’s opening! — and then bragged about it in the marketing buildup. No doubt Michael Bay learned something there.

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  • 2 – the interesting visual effects – particularly the robots, which go a bit further than the last film, but also this very bizarre living, but miniature, chess set sequence.
  • 2A – beyond the robots, I mean the strange visuals that Heffron created for the film. It’s interesting to me that he never really directed many movies again, and certainly no blockbusters. That includes the dream sequence with Yul Brynner, who gets prominent billing here for reprising his role as the “gunslinger” in one very short segment that’s got some light bondage overtones in its eroticism. It’s more of Heffron’s bizarre visuals, strangely hypnotic and definitely interesting. He definitely has a creative visision here that pushes the boundaries of what audiences were probably used to; sadly, he buries it in a formulaic and often boring movie.
  • 3 – Don’t forget the first-ever use of CGI, which comes on a television monitor. The story there is that producers saw a student film by Ed Catmull created in 1972. Catmull made a CGI model of his hand, and then some facial stuff, too — all of which the producers bought up and put in this scene. Catmull ended up doing okay, too. He was one of the founders of Pixar. You can watch his original student film here.

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  • 3A – The culmination of all this is the actual creation of Fonda’s double, which includes more early CG stuff, then ending with a slow zoom out of Fonda’s eye and over his body — the same footage that opens the film. It’s creepy stuff.
  • 4 – John Ryan, who is always amazing.

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  • 5 – Clark, the sad robot befriended by Harry, a workman in the bowels of the resort. When Harry finally has to flee and leave Chuck behind, well, it’s both funny and sad. They really are friends. Harry promises to come back for him… is that the unmade third in the series??

 

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  • Overall, the film doesn’t really work, since it never really knows what it is or where it’s going, ends abruptly, and doesn’t seem to invest much in developing a story. Odd subplots trail off and go nowhere, and the attempts at eroticism (such a part of the original) are pretty tepid and pointless here.
  • Do love this final image, though — which apparently was re-shot for the television release to be Fonda thumbing his nose or something.

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  • AIP’s marketing campaign included lots and lots of theater promotions — including these antics by a Dallas theater to have the staff where homemade Clark masks. Amazing.
  • The actor who portrayed Clark actually made dozens of live appearances — in characer! — at theaters around the country and on local television shows.
  • There were also fashion shows, beauty pageants, banner flyovers, and all kinds of crazy events — like this one in New York, which is kind of nuts:

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  • Futureworld is mostly a dusty curiosity now, increasingly forgotten. I dig the creepiness of robots taking over — and we can’t even tell who is a robot! — but that story was told better in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
  • Even more forgotten is the five-episode Beyond Westworld television show that aired in 1980 on CBS. Of course, HBO is bringing back a very high profile Westworld show soon by Jonathan Nolan… Delos lives on, even if Futureworld does not. Maybe that’s for the best.

It was released forty years ago today.

Forty Years Ago Today: August 12, 1976

The Ritz 

Directed by Richard Lester. Distributed by Warner Bros. 91 minutes.

 

1976 8-12 NYT 31
New York Times, August 12, 1976
1976 8-11 Variety 19
Variety, August 11, 1976
  • [Note: while I usually avoid using the earliest releases as “the” release date, in this case I’m going with the New York release instead of the nationwide release in October — this is a quintessential NY film, as I talk about below, so that seems right.]
  • Terrence McNally adapted his own play for the screen — it was originally written while he was in residence at Yale, then taken to Broadway, where it ran for nearly 400 performances and was very well-recieved and successful, with numerous Tony nominations and whatnot. It’s a simple story: (straight) man hides out from the Mob in a gay bathhouse, hijinks ensue.
  • Jack Weston, Jerry Stiller, Rita Moreno, and F. Murray Abraham all reprise their roles.
  • Sadly, the always wonderful George Dzunda does not come back as Abe, the streetwise desk clerk at The Ritz — but he’s replaced here by Dave King, who was a well-known British singer, comedian, presenter, and then actor. You might remember him as the corrupt cop in The Long Good Friday (1980). He’s incredible here and completely convincing as an archetypal cynical New Yorker.
  • In interviews, director Richard Lester talked a lot about how he was coming off of some “historical” movies (most notably The Four Musketeers and Robin and Marian) and wanted to do something unpredictable.
  • The film was shot on the Twickenham soundstage in London. The set that was constructed is beautiful, with a wonderful lived-in appearance, an spacious or cramped in all the right places and ways. Having seen a few photographs of various bathhouses from the era, I can safely say the designers here did their homework, with little touches throughout that just feel right.
  • Specifically, the Continental Baths in the Ansonia Hotel come to mind as an inspiration for this film, the legendary bathhouse in New York that was home to thousands of gay men in the 1970s and enough straight onlookers and gawkers that many patrons even complained. It was, by all accounts, a magnificent place, replete with entertainers of all kinds and various levels and floors and all kinds of spaces for sexual (and otherwise) activity. Bette Midler got her start there, eventually becoming known as “Bathhouse Bette.” Some remarkable footage of her performing there is here. Eventually, the Continental Baths closed and were replaced by the infamous Plato’s Retreat, which then moved to a different location before its eventual closure.
  • The play (and film) were McNally’s attempt at farce —  and specifically to emulate the style of Georges Feydeau, the Belle Epoque master of the genre. Instead of a hotel and married couples, the standard required elements, McNally substitutes horny gay men and a bathhouse. It’s inspired to say the least, and works rather ideally for the genre. By the end of the film, when lots of running around, slamming doors, confused identities, sexual confusion, and general chaos needs to be happening to meet the generic checklist, it most definitely is. Well done, McNally (and Lester).
  • There’s several reasons to love this film — the first is the set. Just look at the amazing, beautiful, worn appearance in the opening scene in the lobby. I felt for much of this film that it HAD to have been filmed on location somewhere in New York. The peeling walls, dirty fishtank, and worn couch fabric all jump from the screen. The whole film is like this, in every delightful corner of the place.

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  • The second is the cast. It’s a delight watching them work together, especially knowing they’ve done it hundreds of times (though Moreno did leave the stage show midway through its run). Jack Weston, as Gaetano Proclo, mugs his way through the film, partly homophobic (more on that in a minute), partly curious, and mostly bewildered, in a bad toupee. He’s the center, and everyone whirls and spins around him. He’s perfectly cast.

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  • Rita Moreno is incredible as Googie Gomez, the Puerto Rican entertainer / insatiable lover (some stereotyping there for sure) who sings in “the pits,” the pool area of the place. She’s a terrible performer — but the performance is so good, so delicious, you can’t take your eyes off her. Moreno cooked up the characterization while on the set of West Side Story. The showstopping middle of the film is her act.

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  • Jerry Stiller is Carmine Vespucci, the Mob boss, who eventually comes into the baths, too, and is then driven crazy and then into the hands of the police by the men there. It’s a real delight seeing their reaction to a disgusting homophobe.

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  • Treat Williams is the naive private detective sent in to help Vespucci. It’s a weird role, with Williams using a falsetto voice the entire film, mistaken (?) for a gay man, and generally just being some eye candy.

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  • Paul Price is Claude, a delightful pervert (and I don’t mean that disparagingly), chasing Weston the entire film because of his proclivities as what the film repeatedly calls a “chubby chaser.” It’s a an amazing, unhinged performance, and it all culminates in him helping Weston at the end.

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  • Finally, F. Murray Abraham is a marvel here, completely over the top, playing a wildly horny gay man trying (unsuccessfully) to fuck everything in sight. He’s one part tour guide for Weston, one part comic relief, one part sad clown, and one part heroic champion. It’s a fantastic performance, and one that the straight Abraham prepared for with many trips to real bathhouses, which he later described as intensely erotic and sexy. More on all that in a minute.

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  • The film is also full of incredible background players, the men of the baths, mostly delightfully middle-aged, with paunches and bald spots, specific proclivities and unabashed desires. One of them (below) is John Ratzenberger.

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  • The third reason to love this film is its unabashed, wonderful, and loving portrayal of gay bathhouse culture of the 1970s. It’s awesome to see and hear these men, their talk of Crisco parties (yes!), orgies, chaps, handcuffs, discos, and on and on and on. You can practically smell the amyl nitrate seeping off the screen. Are there deeply problematic moments? Yes, absolutely — there’s plenty of the “swishing” jokes common from the era, but overall the homophobic humor is deeply political, sending a consistent message, again and again, that being afraid of sexuality is in itself a farce. Abraham is asked to carry a lot here, and it’s a bit over the top, and certainly sad that a straight man is portraying something plenty of gay actors could have done — and better, too — but even his performance is so full of love and grace, it’s hard not to see the critiques laced underneath. By the end, the message of liberation and openness and honesty is exploding off the screen.
  • There’s an element of sadness here, too, of course, with the AIDS crisis looming just ahead of this film’s release. The culture depicted here is a time capsule, for sure, of an era that would be wiped away by death and regulation — and, as such, it’s wonderful to see it in its glory. McNally later said revivals of the play were ill-advised, until one finally was put on in 2007 in the former Studio 54 space, with Rosie Perez in Moreno’s role. By that point, McNally said, the time was right to pay honor and respect to the play’s original meanings and spaces. I think the same applies now, to this film.

It was released forty years ago today.

 

Forty Years Ago Today: August 11, 1976

Drive-In 

Directed by Rod Amateau. Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 96 minutes.

drive-in-movie-poster-1976-1020243279
Original One-Sheet
LAT Aug 11 1976
Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1976
Variety May 26 1976
Variety, May 26, 1976
  • Drive-In reminds me of other episodic films about teenagers from the era — mostly Van Nuys Blvd. (1979) and Record City (1978), which both came after this one. Obviously George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973) was a massive influence here, something that even occasionally came up in interviews, etc. I talk about another really obvious connection at the end of this post.
  • Something the reviews touted — that the film had something for everyone, and was (sort of) family friendly — is definitely true. It’s fairly tame considering the era, with no nudity or sex action, and the drinking, fighting, and pot smoking are all in a comic vein.
  • The soundtrack, filled with country music from the likes of Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, and Ronnie Milsap, is wonderful and really captures the dusty feeling of rural Texas in the the mid-1970s.
  • In particular, the opening song, “Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott” by the Statler Brothers is incredible, and rivals The Graduate or Midnight Cowboy in terms of presenting a mood both lyrically and melodically onscreen to being a film. Here’s the beginning of the lyrics, which are a wonderful slice of history, right down to the ratings code reference, which had changed the “GP” code to “PG” in 1972; the X, of course, was a much bigger deal then and fresher in people’s minds when this film came out:

Everybody knows when you go to the show

You can’t take the kids along

You’ve gotta read the paper

And know the code of G, PG and R and X

And you gotta know what the movie’s about

Before you even go

Tex Ritter’s gone and Disney’s dead

And the screen is filled with sex

  • The opening shot of the film, part of a beautiful helicopter flyby over a field toward the theater (in the movie called The Alamo, actually the Terrell), sets an incredible, sweet tone:Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 8.55.20 AM
  • As a film historian, I don’t take shots like this one lightly — this kind of detail is totally invaluable for trying to understand the past. It’s an historical document in itself. The film was shot on location in Terrell, Texas, which is 30 miles east of Dallas, in late fall / early winter 1975 and had a population of right around 15,000.

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  • The theater itself was located on the west edge of town, not far from downtown — but far enough to be (as the film indicates) somewhat isolated. The aerial view below, undated, captures a typical drive-in with entrance and ext, snack bar and projection booth in the center, and outbuilding to the left (which was a bowling alley in 1975 — briefly depicted in the film). It’s possible that the original screen (shown above) was torn down at some point and replaced; later images don’t seem to match.

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  • Today, the former theater space is occupied by a bank. The bowling alley is still there! It’s not hard, though, to see the theater space — old drive-ins are always there, lurking under the ground, ready to surface.

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  • I doubt there’s a better film depicting an actual drive-in from the era. Much of the film is an historian’s dream: lots and lots of architectural focus, spatial geography, and lingering compositions on the building and grounds. The shots from the credit sequence is particularly beautiful, and reminds me of the openings of Point Blank (1967) and The Getaway (1972), both of which also use a still image effect like this one.  The images of the snack bar / projection booth, located in the middle of the drive-in, are particularly useful for understanding how these structures worked. It’s really a remarkable collection of period images, and presented as a tour of the theater before the night’s show — a process that happens again, in reverse, at the end of the film. Nice bookends.
  • There’s also this beautiful pair of shots — cut from one to the other, showing the back of the giant screen and then front, finally putting the spectator inside the theater itself, as well as capturing the delightful playground in front of the screen — a staple of the drive-in and a key location late in the film.
  • The movie itself is pretty simple: follow a bunch of interlocking stories one Friday night at the drive-in: horny teenagers, petty thieves, bored kids, and so on. It’s loose, at best, and really more about texture and atmosphere.
  • The first third of the movie — during the day, before the action moves to the drive-in, is stunning in its presentation of small-town Texas life, right down to the non-professional cast (something Amateau deliberately sought out) seemingly just living daily life. There’s a section about ten minutes in that just startles in its laconic, simpleness: nothing happens, but everything happens.
  • This all culminates in the film’s best sequence at a roller skating rink, a perfect capturing of teenage life on a Friday night. There’s something about the lingering, patient cinematography in this sequence, just watching people (locals, not actors), the space to breathe, the buildup to the events later, that really stands out. (Much like in Heaven’s Gate (1980), there’s something just pleasant about watching people roller skate and have fun.)
  • The rest of the film, at the drive-in during the screening of Disaster ’76, a spoof of disaster movies (intercut occasionally and cleverly running from Jaws to The Towering Inferno to Earthquake and so on) is fine, if a little overdone at times and teetering into madcap with the two rival gangs.

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  • The cast is a complete delight, but especially a young Glenn Morshower in his acting debut (you will DEFINITELY recognize him today — he’s been in a lot of things) and Lisa Lemole (who had a brief career afterward) as the amazing Glowie, a surprisingly nuanced character that explores, however tentatively and simplistically, some feminist thinking.  They are a marvel together throughout this film. Gary Cavagnaro you might remember as Engelbert in The Bad News Bears, also from 1976.

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  • Finally, this film is obviously a huge influence on Richard Linklater, for all the reasons I describe above and the location. Dazed and Confused (1993) takes place in 1976 in Texas, and is a clear homage to this film — and plays wonderfully as a partner to it. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) might be even more inspired by this film, especially in the way Linklater just lets life play out in front of the camera. There’s something really beautiful about thinking about those Linklater films and then watching the actual teenagers in Texas do their thing at the time in this one. For that reason alone this film is worth watching. I’m not the only one to make this connection, though — after I watched it, I discovered that some years back, Quentin Tarantino did a double bill of them at his New Beverly in Los Angeles.

March 2011

There’s something very sweet about Drive-In. Watch it and find out.

It was released forty years ago today.

Gallery

Forty Years Ago Today: August 4, 1976

The Gumball Rally

Directed by Charles Ball. Distributed by Warner Bros. 105 minutes.

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Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1976

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Los Angeles Times, August 5, 1976
  • Dig the William Castle-esque promotional strategy.
  • The late, forgotten Michael Sarrazin is at his most understated here in a mostly thankless role (face it, this movie is about cars driving fast). He’s unforgettable in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (1969), but I also adore him in Harry in Your Pocket (1973). I haven’t seen The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), which David Fincher was going to remake a few years back, but that’s because the bootleg I have in the vault ain’t the best. I’m hot for it, though. He was supposed to play Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy (1969) but couldn’t get out of another contract.
  • Cool opening image of NYC. Someone should have a blog of images from movies that open with establishing shots of the city.

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  • I love depictions of professors, since I am one. Nicholas Pryor plays Prof. Samuel Graves, which mostly means he’s “smart” and smokes a pipe. Of course.

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  • Theres’s some really nice NYC location footage all over the beginning of this movie, but I especially love the Holland Tunnel stuff. There’s Raul Julia, playing an Italian race car driver / Lothario. He’s amazing in this over-the-top performance.

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  • That’s all in contrast to the location stuff later — Arizona, sez the internet — which is a completely different feel.

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  • It just wouldn’t be a movie from the 1970s without a moment like this, which really exists for no narrative reason at all. I’m honestly surprised she wasn’t topless, except for the obvious attempt (mostly in the slapstick humor) to pitch this movie to family audiences.

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  • My favorite episode in this very episodic film is when two of the racers, posing as cops, convince a real cop that he’s in a movie. It’s a very meta moment in a film with occasional flashes of bizarre humor.

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  • Of all the car-crazy movies from this era, this ain’t one of the best, but this two-wheel moment at the end (which goes for quite a while) is pretty cool. A young Gary Busey is behind the wheel (though surely not the stuntman) in these scenes.

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This is exactly the kind of movie I had in mind when I cooked up the idea for this blog — something that has probably mostly been forgotten, and probably wasn’t even much of a deal when it came out. Folks probably went that first weekend just for something to do.

It was released 40 years ago today.