(Post) Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1970-1979)

Though past Halloween, I’m still thinking about chillers, thrillers, magic, and things that go bump in the night… Continuing with a list of movies I love that contain elements of occult, fantasy, horror, sci-fi (or any combination thereof), here’s my compilation from the 1970’s.

Remember, super-favorites are highlighted in RED with Diego noting those starring fab Felines.

Alien Diego's pick
What can I say here that hasn’t already been said, or that people don’t already know…
I remember a morning news show where they were commenting how the imagery in Alien was like nothing ever seen before – that mix of biological and mechanical that would become H. R. Giger‘s tradmark “biomechanics”. It raised sci-fi horror to an unprecidented level and won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Alien is considered one of the greatest films of all time and its influence on the genre can still be seen today.
Sigourney Weaver continued to reprise her role as Ellen Ripley in the subsequent three sequels.
I was personally mesmerized by the xenomorph itself – so much so that I crafted an Alien head from styrofoam and wore it for Halloween that year.
Blood for Dracula
Also known as Andy Warhol’s Dracula, this is a campy renditon that paints Count Dracula (Udo Kier) as a sick and dying vampire who can only survive on the blood of virgins and travels to Italy in the hopes of finding suitable prey (Italy being predominantly Catholic). Directed by Paul Morrissey (Flesh for Frankenstein) and produced by Carlo Ponti (husband of Sophia Loren), the original release was rated X.
Along with Kier (Shadow of the Vampire, Blade, BloodRayne, Flesh for Frankenstein), Blood for Dracula stars Morrissey-regular Joe Dallesandro (Flesh for Frankenstein), Vittorio de Sica, and an uncredited Roman Polański (Rosemary’s Baby).
Directed by Brian De Palma, this is a coming-of-age bit of horror that ties telekinesis with the onset of menstruation, Carrie was the first film adaptation of a Stephen King novel. (One of the first movies I can remember that shows extreme cruelty among high school girls. Payback’s a bitch, too.) Sissy Spacek shines as the ugly-duckling-turned-prom-queen.
Co-stars Piper Laurie, Army Irving, William Katt, Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, John Travolta, 1980s-movie-regular P. J. Soles, Priscilla Pointer, and Edie McClurg.
Trivia Time:
Nancy Allen went on to become Mrs. De Palma.
Dawn of the Dead
George A. Romero‘s sequel to Night of the Living Dead (which he also directed). A great bit of social satire and a commentary on consumerism, as it takes place in a large shopping mall:
“They don’t know why, they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here.”  link
My favorite in the series, Dawn of the Dead was written by Romero and Dario Argento – who, along with The Goblins, also composed the score. Tom Savini (Innocent Blood) has a bit part. Or is that a “bite” part…
Frank Langella plays the Count with a decidedly romantic flourish. The cast includes some stellar actors besides Langella:  Laurence Olivier and Donald Pleasence.

John Badham directed. Score composed by the inimitable John Williams (The Witches of Eastwick).
Flesh for Frankenstein
Paul Morrissey‘s complement to Blood for Dracula, this film was also given an X rating due to explicit sexuality and violence (disembowelment). One uncomfortable, over-the-top scene involves “sexual exploits” with a female creation. Shocking when it was released, it’s tame by today’s standards but still a hoot. Also known as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, it’s loosely-based on Mary Shelley‘s novel and stars Joe Dallesandro (Blood for Dracula), Udo Kier (Shadow of the Vampire, Blade, BloodRayne, Blood for Dracula), and Monique van Vooren.
It’s Alive! Diego's pick
This one still messes me up… A monstrously mutant baby runs amok killing everyone in sight. John P. Ryan, Sharon Farrell, Guy Stockwell, and Michael Ansara star. Oscar-winning Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Wolf, 2010s The Wolfman, Maleficent) did the makeup and puppet effects.
“…expound on the dangers of various prescription drugs administered to expectant mothers during the 1950s and early 1960s (i.e. Thalidomide), the use of fertility drugs, and the indirect use of pesticides on people.” (Wikipedia)
Love at First Bite Diego's pick
In this romantic comedy, Count Dracula (George Hamilton) is suave, debonair, and tanned (!). Accompanied by his servant, Renfield (Arte Johnson), the vampire decides to take a bite out of the Big Apple. While taking in the sights (blood banks, nightclubs, etc.) he pursues Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James), a high-fashion model who’s the spitting image of the Count’s long-lost true love. Meanwhile, Ms. Sondheim’s psychiatrist/boyfriend, Jeffrey Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin), has discovered the Count’s true identity. Being the grandson of the famous vampire hunter, van Helsing, Rosenberg (!) pursues Dracula with maniacal fervor. Nice cameos by Dick Shawn, Isabel Sanford, and Sherman Hemsley.
On the DVD the song used during the disco scene (“I Love the Nightlife”) was replaced – for unknown reasons – by a really, really lame-ass song. (Having recorded Love at First Bite directly from cable, I am fortunate to possess the original version.)
The Mephisto Waltz
Shot along the Pacific coast of California, it stars Alan Alda, Jacqueline Bisset, Barbara Parkins, Bradford Dillman, William Windom, and Curd Jurgens.

I wrote an article on The Mephisto Waltz earlier this year.

Trivia Time:
The title is taken from the piano work by Franz Liszt:  Mephisto Waltzes.

Mutations due to environmental pollution from a paper mill, specifically mercury which is used in logging as a fungicide. Throw-in Native American activists, an agent from the EPA, his pregnant wife, and rampaging deformed animals. The effects are quite dated, but at the time they were effectively scary. Prophecy was directed by John Frankenheimer (The Island of Dr. Moreau) and stars Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante, and Kevin Peter Hall (Predator, Predator 2).
Directed by David Cronenberg (Nightbreed, The Fly). It’s a vampire film Cronenberg-style starring the infamous Marilyn Chambers. Although Rabid was released prior to the 80’s AIDS epidemic, the reference to sexually-transmitted diseases is apparent.
“Chambers plays a woman who, after being injured in a motorcycle accident and undergoing a surgical operation, develops an orifice under one of her armpits. The orifice hides a phallic stinger that she uses to feed on people’s blood. Soon, those she feeds upon become infected, whose bite spreads the disease and soon causes massive chaos starting with Quebec and ending up in Montreal.” (Wikipedia)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show

It’s just a jump to the left…

This cult classic is based on the 1973 stage show whose music, lyrics, and story were written by Richard O’Brien. The film’s screenplay was also penned by O’Brien (who plays Riff Raff). The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to pre-1970’s horror and sci-fi B movies. It’s a wildly fun ride that still boasts midnight showings around the country and has a global following. (Wikipedia)
Tim Curry (as a lusciously-seductive transvestite) is supported by an equally-great cast:  Susan Sarandon (The Hunger), Barry Bostwick, O’Brien, and Charles Gray. Plus a cameo by Meat Loaf:

Trivia Time:
In addition to O’Brien and Curry, Little Nell (Columbia), and Patricia Quinn (Magenta) were also in the original stage production.
The first time I saw Rocky Horror was on a blind date. Not knowing anything about the film, we went totally unprepared for the active participation of everyone in the theater. I thought it was some sort of dress rehearsal… After seeing Tim Curry (Dr. Frank N. Furter) I was hooked for life and even attended several late-night screenings.
The movie and audience participation were featured in Fame (1980).

The Sentinel Diego's pick
What the critics hate, I often love. This little slice of horror centers around a Brooklyn apartment building that’s really a gateway to Hell. There are some parts that’ll make you uncomfortable (the masterbation scene) and others that are disturbingly comical (“Black and white cat, black and white cake.”).

The Sentinel stars Chris Sarandon (Fright Night), Cristina Raines, Martin Balsam, John Carradine (Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein), José Ferrer, Sylvia Miles, Beverly D’Angelo, Ava Gardner, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken (Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow), Jerry Orbach, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum (The Fly), a wickedly impish Burgess Meredith, and a cast of real-life “freaks” playing Hell’s demon spawn.

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

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Horror::The Mephisto Waltz (1971)

A top-notch cast keeps The Mephisto Waltz (named after a piano piece written by Franz Liszt) from feeling too much like a made-for-TV offering, and the score is chillingly appropriate for this story of Satan worship and body-swapping. Curt Jürgens, Barbara Parkins, and Jacqueline Bisset are all perfect in their respective roles. Although Alan Alda did a fine job with his character, I wished they had cast someone sexier. I had a hard time seeing him as the object of (the womens’) lust.

“They say the truth is, once you’ve had one of them [a Satan-worshipper]
nothing else will quite satisfy you.”

The movie never lets you forget the timeframe in which it was filmed: the interiors of the Clarkson house are quintessential 1970’s California Pacific Coast style (i.e., Play Misty for Me, The Sandpiper); a “swinging party” scene complete with animal-masked partygoers (and one human-masked dog); stylized cinematography and dream imagery; and plenty of bell-sleeves, floaty caftans, polyester, turtle-necks, flared pants, and halter dresses. It’s also a kinky, amoral, eerie, creepy, and atmospheric little thriller.

DVD Beaver
DVD Compare
Le Cinema Dreams
The Social Design

The mask worn by the black dog is that of William Shatner,
the same style mask worn by Michael Myers in the original Halloween (1978).

It should come as no surprise that Barbara Parkins has been a personal favorite of mine (she plays the femme fatale here like she was born to it).

All images remain the property of their original owners. All rights reserved.

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