1971 was a great year for movies. Everything got a lot tougher, a lot nastier, a lot more brutal. Probably the best year for movies, ever. Here are my favourites, ranked.
1. The Devils (Ken Russell)
A filthy, brutal movie. Banned in many countries and almost completely unavailable on DVD, this is a true 1971 picture from madcap genius Ken Russell. The fact that it remains so unseen to this day is astounding. This movie stars Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave in career best performances, sets designed by Derek Jarman, music composed by Peter Maxwell Davies and has numerous other high profile names attached to it. Warner Brothers’ refusal to release this uncut is an absolute travesty.
2. Straw Dogs (Sam Peckinpah)
Straw Dogs is an incredibly violent, hard-hitting movie which was once again banned for a long time, due in no small part to a lengthy rape scene in which the female victim seems to enjoy the ordeal. Sam Peckinpah was himself a controversial figure, often renting whores for the cast and crew to patronise following a day’s filming. The film is a slow-burner, albeit one filled with a pervading sense of rivalry between the petulantly dramatic Susan George and the stubbornly introverted Dustin Hoffman. The ending is a crescendo of gratuitous violence.
3. Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg)
Walkabout combined the hippy, free living, animal loving antics with the incoming intensity of 1970s cinema by juxtaposing images of animals running free across Australian plains with barbecued kangaroo carcasses (skin on!) and stock footage of commercial butchers at work. Beautiful movie.
4. Macbeth (Roman Polanski)
Roman Polanski’s Macbeth is perhaps the finest Shakespeare adaptation put to film. A sparse, desolate set in rugged North Wales serves as the backdrop for the evil couple to perform their legendary regicide. The film’s desolation is bought to life by a surprising amount of violence for a Shakespeare film, as men are beaten with clubs and axes, stabbed in their sleep and executed left right and centre. The film also has a constant sense of evil decay about it, from the muddy, unpleasant interiors of Macbeth’s castle to the hideously wrinkled and deformed witches. Polanski’s first film after the murder of his wife Sharon Tate is every bit as bitter as he was.
5. The French Connection (William Friedkin)
The French Connection is a fast paced, hard boiled neo-noir following Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle – a very dedicated policeman with questionable methods not unlike Dirty Harry Callahan’s. The French Connection quite deliberately lacks the polish of Dirty Harry and instead opts for a totally low down dirty look, with the use of different film stock giving the film a disjointed, thrown-together aesthetic. Prejudiced cops and stylish villains.
6. Dirty Harry (Don Siegel)
A film which now holds legendary status, Dirty Harry needs no introduction. Under fire since its release for its apparent fascist content and encouragement of police brutality, Dirty Harry is nonetheless secretly adored by everyone on the planet, even the wooly headed liberals like myself.
7. Get Carter (Mike Hodges)
Get Carter is a gritty journey into a not-very glamorous underworld of illegal pornography and small time crooks. Complete with Michael Caine dealing death to anyone who happens to be in the way at the time, usually dying in horribly undignified ways.
8. Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Batshit Giallo, what else can I say?Read less