My Favorite Movies – Happy ’70’s Macho Nihilism

20 10 2012

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)
I love caper movies. I love WWII movies. I love Star-Studded Extravaganza Movies from the ‘70’s. “Kelly’s Heroes” was all three and lots more. In post D-Day France, Lt. Kelly (Clint Eastwood) discovers that there is a bank filled with gold bullion twenty miles behind German lines. He gathers his war-weary, mismanaged, strangely embittered troops and goes in for the big score. It has winning performances by Telly Savalas, Clint Eastwood, my spirit animal Don Rickles, and a quotable Donald Sutherland who captains a bohemian tank squadron some 15 years before bohemians were supposed to be in vogue. Sutherland’s character (named “Oddball”) would have fir easily into “Easy Rider” or any other hippy movie, and the tone of the men was unusually weary for a ‘70’s war film, and it pre-dated “The Boys In Company C” by only a few years, so I believe the movie was intended as an under-the-radar critique of Vietnam.
Nonetheless, it makes armed robbery in a warzone seem like rollicking good macho fun. Note that the theme song was performed by “The New Christie Minstrels” for extra ‘70’s goodness.

The Longest Yard (1972)
My father was a social services coordinator for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He was also a huge Burt Reynolds fan. When we lived in Leavenworth, Kansas, my father found out that NBC was going to put on a show at the penitentiary…featuring Burt Reynolds. He got to drive Burt around, which was one of the happiest moments of his life.
So Adam Sandler must suffer for having taken my father’s favorite movie and remaking it with idiocy. But Sandler must live as Sandler, which is tortuous irony enough for him, I suppose.
Another Star-Studded Extravaganza, this time with a washed-up NFL quarterback (Guess?) fighting the system run by Eddie Arnold, culminating in an inmate vs. guard football game.
This movie was the ‘70’s. It had drinkin’, fightin’ the system, macho punch-outs, bright Technicolor, even a police car chase in the very beginning.
It also had many true-to-life prison details which amused my dad, from pruno in the toilet tank to tranny cheerleaders.
Like “KH”, it truly was a happy, nihilistic movie. Or, rather, they had only three values: love up the ladies, live for today, and do right by your friends.

I was too young for the tools of nihilism during the ‘70’s, but I had the next best things: an SST Smash-Up Derby Set, a Daisy Golden Eagle BB Rifle, and cane sugar Mountain Dew.

All of my friends and I were looking to pull an intense caper. We broke into empty houses. We sneaked out in the middle of the night and roamed to other neighborhoods for petty vandalism. When my friends the Mort Brothers sneaked out one night and got caught breaking into some treehouse, then punched out the outraged father and escaped, my 13-year-old self was jealous of their adventure. Meanwhile, my brothers were breaking curfews, setting things on fire, and experimenting with substances too.

We scorned the kid who studied and followed the rules. Hmmm.