Super 70 Podcast
Film is art. Film is history. Film is fun. Join me as we watch an eclectic list of the world's cultural treasures. No film is too obscure or makes too much money. The goal is not to tear down or to rehabilitate - only to understand. Click the title to take you to the podcast on iTunes or head on over to my SoundCloud.
Fellow Film Aficionado Dave Anderson joins me as we watch James Cameron’s seminal 1984 B-Movie Masterpiece, The Terminator. On the surface there seems to be something bold and original going on. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a role you can understand, Linda Hamilton is our female hero in a time of hypermasculine film, and a high quality in film production hides the bottom dollar spent to shoot this cyborg killer tale. Underneath lies a weave of movie homages from Metropolis, Blade Runner, and Alien to explore socio-economic themes on our minds in the 1980’s: big government, big business, and our deep seated fear that technology is a double sided blade that’s just a little bit sharper on one side.
Gordon Parks, Jr. was a photographer from Minneapolis who had trained as a cinematographer under his father when he convinced a group of African American investors from Harlem to pool their money into a Blaxploitation movie. Using a cast and crew that was by and large African American and Puerto Rican, Parks and Blaxploitation star Ron O’Neal shot to fame with 1972’s Super Fly, a sordid tale about Harlem cocaine dealer Youngblood Priest who cooks up a plan to go straight. But Priest’s plans go awry when his black business partners and his white suppliers decide that his retirement isn’t in their best interests. Join me in my Cadillac El Dorado as we discuss race, revolution, and #BlackLivesMatter.
“Well, I would say that I’m just drifting in the pool.”
Everyone loves The Graduate, except me. Screenwriter Buck Henry and Director Mike Nichols hit the ball out of the park with this biting commentary on American society at the height of the 1960s. But underneath the nods and smiles to the counterculture and Robert Surtees’ superior cinematography, there are disturbing signs of sickness in the left. Join me as we marvel at how such a perfect film can be so flawed.
Walter Wanger was a convicted criminal rebuilding his career when he collaborated with television director Don Siegel and screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring to make a film of Jack Finney’s science fiction serial. What they were going for was a cheap B-movie like The Blob or Godzilla that could run second bill in drive-in double features. What they got was a lasting monument to our nations fears in 1956 America: Communism, Conformity, and the color red. Let’s watch Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter try to survive the Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
Michael Curtiz was already one of the most successful directors in Hollywood when Warner Brothers practically forced him to cast Joan Crawford in one of the most famous melodramas ever made. Crawford, an American household name who was recognized as one of the most professional actors in Hollywood, led a devastating supporting cast in this 1945 mystery that tells us more than we ever wanted to know about sexual politics after the Second World War. Join me as we talk about the feminization of men, the wasteland of masculinity, the attack on femininity, the impact of the Second World War, and that dreaded word no one wants to discuss…incest.
Melvin LeRoy and Busby Berkeley both direct Golddiggers of 1933. The second incarnation of a popular broadway hit, Golddiggers of 1933 is a tangled tale of love, sex, and money. Well, actually it’s just about sex and money, right? Or is it about social issues and sexism? Perhaps this has something to do with the #MeToo movement. Join me, Ginger Rogers, and Dick Powell as we try to figure out if the progressive elements of this film outweigh its’ outrageous gender bias.
Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman crossed two unlikely themes when they made The General for United Artists: the Southern Lost Cause in popular culture and Keaton’s vaudeville straight man act. The result is a tale all too well told in Hollywood: an expensive flop that comes to be appreciated over time but still has problematic content. Join me as we ride with Keaton through several misadventures on the Locomotive Texas and cherish one of the silent cinema’s greatest gems.
We wrap up the 1980's by looking at Michael Lehmann's 1988 pop bubble gum suicide film tome Heathers. With a screenplay by Daniel Waters and starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, Heathers is an unlikely black comedy that threw glitter on the glamorous to bemoan a culture that pursued evil in the race to popularity. Dismissed at the time as an insulting anti-John Hughes trash pick, Heathers was the leader in films that started to talk the way teenagers talk and took on serious issues teenagers were eager to think about.
Mel Brooks took on a huge challenge when he decided to Produce and star in a remake of the classic Ernst Lubitsch black comedy To Be or Not To Be from 1941. Critical opinion was mixed at the time with most saying it would have been better if Brooks had left the sardonic and extremely sarcastic war film alone. The result, To Be or Not To Be 1983 presents itself as a very noble attempt to give the story a slightly different take including dealing with a painful past and cultural myths using slapstick and civil rights. Watch the film while playing this podcast and perhaps we’ll see our mixed opinion about this 80’s comedy change much like it did for Lubitsch’s original masterpiece.
Our second foreign film is Peter Weir’s Gallipoli. Released in 1981 and starring a very young Mel Gibson, Gallipoli is a First World War Saga that traces the causes and fallacies of Australia’s involvement in a horrible battle that literally changed nothing but Australia’s attitude about what it meant to be a member of the British Empire. This conversation survived the First World War, the release of this film, and continues today. This is another one of my more rambling episodes so if you like the rigid scene by scene breakdown I usually give, this may not be your cup of tea. However, this also means you also won’t have to turn the podcast on to watch the film as I give nonsensical narration.
“I’m fed up with it. Filmmakers like George Romero and John Carpenter have to show some restraint.”
Starring wrestling superstar “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and the amazing veteran David Keith, we watch John Carpenter’s master commentary on capitalism: 1988’s THEY LIVE. Released the Friday before the federal election, THEY LIVE is an overt criticism of yuppies mixed with an undercurrent on race, politics, and the future of America. Join me as we uncover not only how THEY LIVE was relevant in 1988, but how it is still relevant just last week as we woke up and asked ourselves: “What’s Wrong, Baby?”
This month we will be digging deep into Ghostbusters 1984. In fact, most of the time I will be paraphrasing or directly quoting Adam Bertocci and his online essay Overthinking Ghostbusters posted on his website www.runleiarun.com. I found that I had nothing profound to add to Bertocci’s fine analysis and asked him very kindly if I could use some of it for this podcast. To Adam, I say a heartfelt thank you. To you I ask that you think hard about what that Twinkie and the enormous Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man really means in 1980’s Reagan America.
The Super 70 Podcast is available on iTunes, SoundCloud, and my website at www.thatdylandavis.com.
All music on The Super 70 Podcast is provided by Rozalind MacPhail and Joshua Cunningham whom you can also find on SoundCloud.
This month we look at the eternal cross-genre classic Back to the Future. Seemingly about a time-traveling teenager, this blockbuster from 1985 showcased Robert Zemeckis as a Hollywood directing powerhouse capable of complex cinematographic techniques to critique life in the 1980s by looking at the 1950s. But perhaps there is more to look at than Zemeckis planned. We’ll go scene by scene through Michael J. Fox’s breakout movie to explore politics, race, and rape.
If you have the means, please go to michaeljfox.org or teamfox.org to donate to Team Fox, a foundation committed to funding and fighting the scourge of Parkinson’s disease. Neither I nor this podcast receives anything from Team Fox. This is not a paid advertisement.
This month we take a look at Hiyao Miyazaki's Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind. This Manga from 1984 gives us a peak into what Japan was thinking of in the '80's: environmentalism, violence, and pacifism. Layered over this is a female protagonist who would rather save lives than take them in her quest to help the Kingdom of Tolmekia see the world as she does. This commentary is less a scene by scene breakdown as I normally do but more of an exploration of thought as the film unfolds. Join me as I appreciate the beauty and wisdom of Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind.
This month we take a look at Looker, the 1981 science fiction thriller by author-director Michael Crichton. Starring Albert Finney, James Coburn and Susan Dey, Looker peers into the uncomfortable and uninviting industry of advertising and marketing. Though not a perfect film, Looker exposes a raw nerve of our consumer society we should all be thinking about. Join me as we go scene by scene through a film penned and shot by the author of Disclosure and Jurassic Park. Look Closer.
S70P EP02 HEAD OFFICE
I know this is rather ambitious of me to choose such a complicated film for my first podcast, but I couldn't help it. Blade Runner is multi-layered, endlessly fascinating, but not perfect. Join me by turning the podcast on while you watch Blade Runner Final Cut (2007) and we'll go scene by scene through this flawed masterpiece of collaborative filming from the talented Ridley Scott.