Retro Film Report #36: Seven Films from 1972

1972 brought pictures from Mars and women entering the Boston Marathon.  It was also the year of Watergate and Jane Fonda in Vietnam.  In the theaters were The Poseidon Adventure, The Godfather, Deep Throat, and Cabaret. Today we'll take a look at a handful of flicks from that interesting year. Enjoy.


Sweet Lord, this movie is horrible.  But this is what us seventies kids got in terms of Disney movies.  We didn't have Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, or instant classic Pixar films.  Nope.  We had live action Disney films like Now You See Him, Now You Don't and The Apple Dumpling Gang.  Sure, there were a few animated flicks for kids, but they were few and far between .  Thank God for Star Wars.

Kurt Russell invents an invisibility potion (see his missing fingers he's dipped into it?).  Unfunny hi-jinx ensue.  This would've made for a great 80's teen sex comedy, but falls woefully flat as an heir to Flubber.

Also stars Cesar Romero, Jim Backus, and Joe Flynn.  Why in the name of all that is holy did they cast such old timers who seventies kids could give a flying shit about?  They did this all the time, especially with the beach films (i.e. Beach Blanket Bingo).  They were overflowing with celebrities 40 years older than the movie's target audience. Go figure.


In Avanti!, Jack Lemmon travels to Italy to claim his father's body who was recently killed in an auto accident.  Turns out, his father died with his mistress who was also in the car.  While in Italy, Lemmon falls in love with his father's mistress' daughter played by Juliet Mills.

There's been a lot of these type of movies over the years. You know the kind: the "square" WWII generation guy falling in lust with a young "free" girl.  Think Blame it on Rio or I Love You, Alice B. Toklas.  It's nothing more than aging man's wet dream on celluloid; and his fuddy-duddy-ness and her sexually free attitudes are always overly exaggerated.

Director Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot) thought he was being daring with Avanti!, but by 1972, the idea of this sort of romance was a far cry from being taboo.  Audiences were bored, and Wilder was disappointed.

You do get to see Juliet Mills, the young free spirit, topless.... but you actually see more of Jack Lemmon! Yep.  Lemmons tush makes several appearances.  Juliet (sister of Haley Mills) is best known for her starring role in the TV series Nanny and the Professor.  She has been quoted as saying Avanti! was the highlight of her career.


A father and a son vacation together on a beach.  They're having a hard time relating to each other until a beautiful woman (Mimsey Farmer) is washed ashore.  The woman is alive but speaks a different language and acts as if she's shell-shocked.

This is an artistic film; very slow moving with a surreal quality.  In fact, I'm not quite sure if the girl was even real or not.  There's definitely some symbolism going on here, but I'm just not picking up on it.  I guess this is the sort of film that demands a discussion afterward, to figure out what the hell it all meant.  Preferably this is done in a coffee house in loud obnoxious tones.

I'll be honest, I didn't get it, but I could still appreciate how it was filmed.  That being said, the son with the Jewfro was painfully awful. And there was something creepy under the surface that I just couldn't put my finger on.  Was it the way they eyed the catatonic Mimsey? Was it the way there was almost an incestuous feel between father and son?   I don't know, but it's certainly not for everyone. I will say, however, that Mimsey Farmer exudes a strange beauty that makes this weird mess bearable


Once you watch a couple good giallos, you will be hooked for life.  It's an acquired taste.  They're basically a combination mystery and horror and adhere to a series of odd tropes such as always having a black gloved psychopathic killer and titles which contain a number and a plant/animal (i.e. Four Flies on Grey Velvet).  They also have kick ass scores, feature liberal amounts of nudity, and have murders that would make Jason Voorhees proud.

This film drags insufferably between the killing; however, when there's killing the killing is good.  Director Umberto Lenzi puts together a trio of murders in this film which are about as good as it gets.  Tense and supremely brutal, these are masterfully executed.

Yet, as far as giallos go, Seven Blood Stained Orchids is relatively tame. Most of the film is bland detective work, and there's no real sense of the macabre that you often get from a well crafted giallo.  Still, it has its moments which make it all worthwhile.


What the hell was going on in '72 that produced some of the darkest movies ever made.  In that same year, we had Last House on the Left, Deliverance, and an Alfred Hitchcock movie with graphic violence, rape and nudity. 

The rape and murder of a worker at a matrimony agency (played by Barbara Leigh Hunt) is one of the most realistic, brutal, and overall troubling scenes ever.  Hitchcock depicts the violence bluntly without flinching, and it is a memorably disturbing scene.

Recognize this gal? That's Damien's satanic nanny in The Omen. Anyway, it's fitting that this follows a giallo in this post because that is exactly the feel I get from Frenzy.  It should've just been titled "Five Claws for the Cat Bride" or something giaollo-ish and been done with it.

Overall, it doesn't scream "classic" like other Hitchcock endeavors, but it is still highly underrated.  I'd put it above The Birds (fighting words for some of you, I know).   A pretty lousy score and a surplus of dull moments prevent it from achieving classic status; however, there's still plenty of suspense, loads of great acting, and superb cinematography to keep viewers happy.


A lot of people think the stalk-n-slash horror movie began with Halloween and Friday the 13th.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Indeed, all the slasher tropes were in place as far back as 1971 in Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve.  Hammer's Horror on Snape Island further solidified the slasher template, and in 1974 Black Christmas chiseled the format in stone.

A poor girl is rendered catatonic by the horrific events that took place on this mysterious island.  Through hypnosis, intravenous drugs, and groovy lights, the doctors are able to glean what exactly happened on Snape Island.

Basically it all amounts to the Friday the 13th slasher plot line:  A bunch of teenagers go to a remote location to get high and have sex.  One by one, they are stalked and killed.  Instead of Crystal Lake, it's a Gothic tower with plenty of creaky doors and eerie atmosphere.

Leonard Maltin gave this a BOMB, but I would strongly disagree.  It's got decent acting (their British, so they automatically can act), the girls get naked, there's plenty of horror and suspense.... what's not to love? With the tagline "They came, they saw, they died", you know it's got to be good.


Holy shit.  I am at a loss for words - this may be the most badass movie of all time.  The action is relentless, gritty, and filmed with a flair of genius.  This is a shining example of the Italian crime cinema genre known as poliziotteschi.  But don't shy away because it's a foreign taste; this has the muscle to stand up to any American crime film.  Just as the Spaghetti Western was Italy's answer to the American cowboy movie, the poliziotteschi is their answer to the American crime drama.

Tarantino used Woody Strode and Henry Silva (above) as the inspiration for the Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta characters in Pulp Fiction.  Plus, Femi Benussi gets naked, there's prostitutes to rough up, heroine to sell, and lots of scantily clad hippies dancing.  The whole thing is like a frantic fever dream; it just doesn't let up, and manages to maintain a state of "kick assery" the duration of the film.

So, I think we'll end on a high note.  I'd be interested to hear your take on these films.


  1. Those Disney "youth movies" were the stiffest, creakiest attempts to Get With It conceivable. Even seeing them as a kid was infuriating. No Miniskirt Mondays out of those!
    The Giallos, beside the Artistic Nudity, had killer soundtracks(Piccioni, Umiliani).

  2. If you don't know who Femi Benussi is, take a moment now and search her name on the interwebs. Then search her images. Then step outside for a quick smoke.

    Oh, thank you for this little tour through the backstreets of cinema, Gilligan.

  3. Ah, the Nixon era; when presidents spied on political enemies, not the whole nation.

    1. Ah, the Nixon era; when presidents vetoed the War Powers Act not wiped their ass with it.

  4. Up until Tron Disney live action movies were sorely lacking, though I did enjoy H.A.W.M.P.S.

  5. Are you seriously calling Joe Flynn an "old timer"? Any kid growing up in the '70s probably spent quite a bit of that youth watching McHale's Navy and knew that Joe Flynn meant comedy gold. How to Frame a Figg and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes kick ass.

    We also enjoyed Avanti quite a bit - not bored at all by it.

    Ah, finally, some love for Frenzy. It always seems to be overlooked by those who'd rather gush about Vertigo.

    1. Director John Landis has theory of why so many old timers ended up in teen movies back then..... that the films weren't mean for teens; that old guys were getting their rocks off at Beach Blanket Bingo. (I think he goes into it in American Grindhouse). But, yeah, Joe Flynn crosses the generations - bad example on my part.

      Like Blame It on Rio, I wasn't bored by Avanti.... but Wilder himself disliked the final product. Could've been much better.

    2. I think you were correct the first time, Gil. As a kid/teen in the 60s & 70s, I had no interest in Disney teen movies with all these middle aged Joe Flynns and Tim Conways in them. I always wondered why no one seemed young in youth movies. Even Kurt Russell, their one concession to actual youth, came off as hopelessly square and lacking in appeal. Probably due to no fault of his own. It was only when I was older that I started appreciating the comedy value of Joe Flynn and the like.

  6. Ah yes. I enjoyed most of this movies actually in the theater. I worked as an usher between 1978 and 1980. Every summer we had midnight showings of some of the "more exotic" flicks, like these. "Rabid" was another favorite, featuring Marilyn Chambers in the lead role. Further, I must say I much prefer the girls in these and the Hammer movies to today's "scream queens". Back then they were all natural and looked like real women, not nip and tucked and enhanced; made to look like human Barbie dolls. Thanks for this post, great stuff.

  7. "Also stars Cesar Romero, Jim Backus, and Joe Flynn. Why in the name of all that is holy did they cast such old timers who seventies kids could give a flying s&%t about? They did this all the time, especially with the beach films (i.e. Beach Blanket Bingo). They were overflowing with celebrities 40 years older than the movie's target audience. Go figure."

    Easy to figure. Those stars came cheap by then, and, as a 70s kid raised on afternoon reruns of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and BATMAN, they were of great interest to me! I used to stay up late then, to catch Romero's old 40s films to get a glimpse of the man who portrayed "the Joker!"

    Al Bigley

  8. I've seen all the Kurt Russell "Dexter" movies from Now You See Him, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, the one where he's super fast and the one where he gets his pet chimpanzee to pick winning TV shows. I grew up in the 70s and for some reason I didn't really dig the Disney animations but I liked the contemporary live action kid's stuff. I'd rather see No Deposit No Return, The Cat From Outer Space and the Herbie the Bug movies than any of those sappy animations or their more recent incarnations with stand up comedians doing star turns in cartoon form. I envied how those kids in those live action movies could sneak out of their houses at night and solve crimes. No give me the young Kurt Russell or Dean Jones (if wet, Ken Berry) any day.

    1. I remember loving Boatniks. I haven't seen it since it was released and I kind of don't want to. I prefer the fond memories.

    2. I loved those live action flicks too, Nick. Don't forget Snowball Express! :)

  9. Oh, and Kim Richards. I had a crush on Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann was my boyhood hero.

  10. Plenty of miniskirt Mondays in Disney!!..especially the scene with Michelle Lee...

  11. HAWMPS was not a Disney movie.

  12. Frenzy just came up on Netflix Instant, I can't wait to see it. I've heard pretty strong views both ways on it.

    We just watched a lot of the live action Disney stuff. My kids like most of it. They really love No Deposit No Return, Herbie, Candleshoe, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again and a few others. There were a few that they didn't care for, but mostly they enjoy them. I agree with Al that those older actors came cheap so they used them.

    What are a couple giallos you'd recommend to start with?

  13. FREAKY FRIDAY in '77 was certainly above average for Disney live action--Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster were truly first rate casting.

    1. And 1979's THE NORTH AVENUE IRREGULARS got favorable reviews from publications as diverse as NEWSWEEK and PLAYBOY.

  14. I agree with Al Bigley. I was 13 when Disney's NOW YOU SEE HIM…came out and I delighted in seeing familiar TV faces like Flynn and Romero. In fact, it was this kind of thing that led to my appreciation of character actors!

    As far as AVANTI, for nearly 8 years now on my own blog since I wrote about that movie, one of the most searched for phrases leading to my blog has been "Juliet Mills Nude."