Forgotten 70s Film Classics

At Cheshire Writing Services, we’re passionate about bringing forgotten artistic gems back into the spotlight. Here is a selection of films from the 70’s which deserve to be cherished – and if you don’t agree with any of our choices, please let us know!

Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter (1973) click here

A late-era Hammer classic, Captain Kronos is an innovative cross-genre movie which cleverly breaks the traditional horror mould while retaining the nubile wenches, blood-sucking nobles and sharpened stakes we know and love. The script combines the swash-buckling action of classic British movies like The Prisoner of Zenda with the understated erotica of Hammer’s best vampire films (The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil). There are even hints of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns lurking in the local brothel-cum-tavern!

Set in some unspecified European locale during the eighteenth century, Kronos follows two professional vampire hunters in their quest to rid a village of a hooded shape-shifter which drains young women of their youth and beauty. Captain Kronos is a valiant ex-soldier whose family was murdered by vampires, while his hunchbacked sidekick offers intellectual and moral support to his master’s relentless crusade. Although Hammer had plans to turn this fascinating premise into a lucrative franchise, the studio sadly closed before a second Kronos movie could be made. Happily, an excellent graphic novel subsequently added further adventures to the Kronos canon and a big-budget remake is being touted.

O Lucky Man! (1973)  click here

The second and best film in British director Lindsey Anderson’s celebrated Mick Travis trilogy, O Lucky Man! stars the young Malcolm McDowell as a picaresque adventurer stumbling through a series of crazy, disconnected adventures in  London, the south of England and further afield. As always in Anderson’s best work, the whiff of anti-Establishment sentiment hangs heavy: medicine, industry, the arts and politics are all cruelly satirised to expose their flawed and abject nature.

Despite this ubiquitous nihilism, the film never loses its pace or humour; and its surreal ambience taps the rich vein of English fantasy which defined much of the best popular culture produced in this era. Weighing in at three hours long,  O Lucky Man! never sags, with a gripping soundtrack and dynamic camerawork holding our attention from start to finish. A masterpiece in all respects, the lasting influence of this forgotten classic can be seen in such surreal American films as My Own private Idaho and The Dead Man.

Oh You Are Awful (1972) click here

Throughout the 70’s Dick Emery was one of the biggest stars on British TV, with a show featuring a host of memorable characters ably played by himself. Most of these crazy caricatures feature in Oh You are Awful. The basic plot revolves around two small time crooks played by Emery and Ronald Frazer. Frazer’s crook dies but not before tattooing the number of a Swiss account across the bottoms of five women. All Dick Emery has are the women’s telephone numbers and the small issue of finding a way to view their backsides. This absurd premise is the vehicle for Emery to assume various personas as he finds ways to gain the women’s trust but a gang of crooks led by Derren Nesbitt (famous as the SS officer in Where Eagles Dare) has a score to settle.  Oh You are Awful is a very 70’s, very British comedy and a fitting tribute to a great but now somewhat forgotten British talent whose work was one of the major influences on the hugely successful Little Britain BBC comedy series.

Take Me High (1973) click here

This Cliff Richard film might not have been shown on TV for over thirty years and few seem to know of its existence yet it has a certain absurd charm.  Try to imagine this startling mixture: an utterly contrived and slushy storyline, ludicrous 70’s clothing fashions (Cliff’s skin-tight white jeans button right up his stomach!), some very corny songs (check out Cliff’s duet with Anthony Andrew), all set against 70’s post-industrial Birmingham (Summer Holiday it is not). And would anyone really commute to work along canals under the Spaghetti Junction using a hover-craft?

Remarkably, a stellar cast assembled for this madcap excursion, including Oscar-winner Hugh Griffiths, George Cole (of Minder fame), Hammer glamour girl Madeleine Smith and 50’s/60’s comedy stalwart Richard Wattis. This is an extraordinary film, even featuring a beef-burger created especially for Birmingham called the Brumburger (and even that has it’s own song!). Do not miss this film if you get a chance to watch it!

The Day of the Jackal (1973) click here

This is a gripping thriller which delivers on every front. Based on the Frederick Forsythe novel (which has a real historical backdrop), this film is essentially a British assassin’s journey across France as he prepares to kill the French President. At the same time, we follow the progress of a detective assigned to stop him. The actual day and method for the hit are kept from the audience as the detective and assassin keep trying to outwit each other until the nail-biting climax in Paris. This was the film that made Edward Fox (who plays the Jackal) a star whilst Michael Lonsdale (playing the detective) went on to play Drax in the James Bond epic Moonraker.

Theatre of Blood (1973) click here

A stellar cast grace this immaculate movie about a failed actor taking savage revenge on his critics. A wonderfully deranged and sinister Vincent Price takes centre stage, with such British screen legends as Michael Hordern, Alan Cuthbertson, Jack Hawkins, Arthur Lowe and Robert Morely playing the critics. Dame Diana Rigg – whom younger readers might know from HBO’s Game of Thrones – plays Price’s nubile daughter and accomplice.

It is difficult to fully describe the brilliance of this film, for it works at so many levels: black comedy, farce and thriller, while making a serious point about the danger of taking art too seriously. Theatre is firmly anchored in the British horror tradition, with wonderful theatre settings and the urbane hum of 70’s London an omnipresent delight. Despite this classic ambience, the film’s clever use of psychological horror is somewhat reminiscent of the Saw franchise. All in all, this is a film we cannot recommend highly enough.

Trial By Combat (1976) click here

For some reason this gem of a movie is unavailable on DVD and never seems to be on TV. Despite this criminal neglect, it is surely one of the finest examples of 70’s camp adventure. Built on a surreal premise that would rival any plot from the Coen Brothers, Trial  concerns a group of vigilantes who kidnap criminals who have escaped justice and give them ‘trial by combat’ where they fight to the death with medieval weapons, clad in suits of armour. The cast includes John Mills, Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, while the male and female leads are American unknowns (although Barbara Hersey went onto bigger things). There are plenty of madcap scenes (such as knights on horseback chasing a Mini through the grounds of a castle) but the action is very well handled and this is a thoroughly entertaining and quite unusual film.

Up the Chastity Belt (1971)  click here

They really don’t make ’em like this any more! A ribald comedy about medieval England, with un-pc, sexist jokes from start to finish and history turned on its head. The Crusades are just an excuse for Knights to party at orgies arranged in the desert by their adversary Saladin (played by Derek Griffiths) and Robin Hood (played incredibly camp by Hugh Paddick), who spends all the money he robs on trendy clothes. The ridiculous plot is perfect for the many talents of the great Frankie Howerd, around whom the film is built. There are many memorable set-pieces in this bright and cheerful comedy, with several surprise castings such as Anna Quale (of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fame). The jokes never stop coming and the cast clearly had a great time making this one.