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Shocking Cinema Of The Seventies Tp Horror Book
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Shocking Cinema Of THe Seventies
Following the breakdown of censorship restrictions in the 1960s and a number of high-budget big-studio flops, the seventies heralded a new era in cinema, one that was unbridled by taste or shackled by decency. It was a dizzying time for movie sex and violence, a time when it felt like pretty much anyone could grab some reel-end stock and shoot whatever they fancied, however bizarre or extreme. Before the 1980s ushered in a new age of sanitised family-friendly, Reaganite film-making, a generation briefly experienced a degree of cinematic freedom.
Shocking Cinema of the Seventies provides a number of essays examining aspects of the decade's more controversial or intriguing films. Although concentrating on films of US origin (where the decade 'really' starts with Bonnie and Clyde (19667)/The Wild Bunch (1969) and carries over to the very early eighties with the MPAA restructuring and the video nasties debacle) the book also manages to include a number of discussions about Hong Kong cinema in the wake of the death of Bruce Lee and a few nuggets from Europe. Naturally it does not seek to be an exhaustive reference guide but rather an examination of cinematic trends and dissections of individual works that aims to shed light on films that are often dismissed or marginalised. To this end the subject matter ranges from the critically familiar (Last House on the Left (1973), Texas Chain-saw Massacre (1974), etc) to more unusual fare (Hammer's bizarre partnership with the similarly struggling Shaw Brothers on Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974), for example).
In his introduction Michael Winner recalls the heady days of his career, often citing the choice of subject matter as deliberately political in motivation. Later essays by Xavier Mendik and Andy Black explore Winner's films of the period, Black focussing on a comparison between The Sentinel (1977) and the European shocker The Antichrist (1974) (Winner's films of the period were generally made in the US). A few articles address the issues of the seventies wave of blaxploitation films with its inherent contradictions. Steven Jay Schneider explores the sub-genre of black horror (and quasi-horror) questioning its purpose at representing the "other" as monster. Linnie Blake examines the work of George A Romero, the seventies being arguably the director's richest years in terms of subtext and style. By placing this body of work in the context of America's distrust of its own government and the economic crisis, Blake reveals Romero as an aggressively left-wing filmmaker - citing Martin's depiction of depressed Pittsburgh as a reflection of contemporary society's disintegration. The attack on consumerism in Dawn of the Dead (1978) is more overt but Romero's distrust of government and authorities is present in the earlier The Crazies (1973) as well as his debut Night of the Living Dead (1968). Season of the Witch (1973, aka Jack's Wife) and its (occasionally garbled) feminism is sadly not covered.
Shocking Cinema of the Seventies is a very welcome addition to the (sadly scant) body of work discussing cult film in an intelligent and academic manner. Certainly not a tome for the casual thrill-seeker, but a very interesting, if eclectic, selection of essays that treat their subjects seriously.
Text Xavier Mendik