What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1978: A Love Letter


My What I’ll Remember posts are an ongoing tradition. A logbook of sorts, they pay tribute to all the year-specific viewing I’ve done over the past however many months. It also stresses that, while the Top Ten list is the crux of this whole project, it’s really a means to an end. It goes without saying, but the process and journey of watching and re-watching these films is most important. I’ve recently looked back on previous What I’ll Remember posts and they evoke the feeling of a photo album, flipping through filmic memories of all shapes and sizes. Still to come are my Ten Honorable Mentions plus Grease post and the Top Ten.

At the end of the post I have a Suggested Double Features section and a compilation of some of my Favorite Shots of the year.

Top Ten By Year: 1978 posts so far: Movie Poster Highlights, Movie Music Mix, Poll Results

Previous What I’ll Remember posts: 1943, 1958, 1965, 1992, 2012, 2013,  2014

10 Performances of 1978: Volker Spengler (In a Year of 13 Moons), Geraldine Chaplin (Remember My Name), Carol Kane (The Mafu Cage), Richard Pryor (Blue Collar), Ingrid Bergman (Autumn Sonata), Jill Clayburgh (An Unmarried Woman), Melanie Mayron (Girlfriends), Isabelle Huppert (Violette Noziere), Christopher Reeve (Superman), Robert De Niro (The Deer Hunter)

Freeze frame endings (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Pretty Baby, Capricorn One, Eyes of Laura Mars, Girlfriends, Magic, Blue Collar, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, An Unmarried Woman, The Deer Hunter)

The fashion photo shoot montage scenes in Eyes of Laura Mars

“You’re my friend Jerry, but you’re thinking white” (Blue Collar)

The makeshift family unit in Dawn of the Dead

Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers; still about the scariest thing I can think of. Poor Veronica Cartwright

The isolated presentational snapshot flashbacks of Autumn Sonata

Liv Ullman and Ingrid Bergman going head-to-head with pent-up mother-daughter angst in Autumn Sonata

Denny Zeitlin’s score for Invasion of the Body Snatchers as prelude for Brian Reitzell’s work on “Hannibal”

Abortion talk (Interiors, A Wedding, Long Weekend, Girlfriends, The Meetings of Anna, Dawn of the Dead, Autumn Sonata, An Unmarried Woman)

Isabelle Adjani in The Driver
Isabelle Adjani in The Driver
Maggie Smith in Death on the Nile
Maggie Smith in Death on the Nile

Women in suits (Isabelle Adjani, The Driver; Maggie Smith, Death on the Nile; Fiona Lewis, The Fury)

“You got a chair!”
“You changed your hair!” (Coming Home)

The half buried manatee carcass that gradually makes its way up the sands in Long Weekend

1978 Movie Marathon with Amanda! (Drunken Master, The Cheap Detective, Girlfriends, Long Weekend)

American pop giallo (Eyes of Laura Mars)

Favorite Characters of 1978: Susan Weinblatt (Melanie Mayron; Girlfriends), Annie (Nancy Loomis; Halloween), Rizzo (Stockard Channing; Grease)Peter (Ken Foree; Dawn of the Dead), Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving; The Fury), Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty; Heaven Can Wait)

Goldie Hawn in Foul Play
Goldie Hawn in Foul Play

Goldie Hawn = cutest librarian ever (Foul Play)

Terrence Malick already bringing his work into the ether for his sophomore film (Days of Heaven)

“Flick my Bic!!” (Blue Collar)

Has Alan Alda always been this insufferable and I’ve just never noticed it? (Same Time, Next Year)

The introduction of the five deadly venoms (Five Deadly Venoms)

John Travolta in Grease
John Travolta in Grease

Put aside the present day creepy Uncle vibes for a second and appreciate that there is nothing quite as deliciously sexy as John Travolta in his prime (Grease)

First experiences with these directors: Karel Zeman (Krabat), Jerzy Skolimowski (The Shout), Chantal Akerman (The Meetings of Anna), Les Blank (Always for Pleasure), Derek Jarman (Jubilee), Paul Mazursky (An Unmarried Woman), Yuen Woo-Ping (Drunken Master), Chang Cheh (Five Deadly Venoms), Liu Chia-Liang (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Heroes of the East)

The emphasis and innovative use of sound in The Shout

Wow, so Eli Wallach is weirdly attractive as the elder charming rabbi in Girlfriends

Hilarious peripheral characters ‘One Song Tinker’ (Scatman Crothers) in The Cheap Detective and ‘Wrong Way Floyd’ (Otis Day) in Thank God It’s Friday

You Are Not Alone
You Are Not Alone

The radical ending of You Are Not Alone

Death by paint fumes (Blue Collar)

The “part Mary Hartman, part Ingmar Bergman” gal pal gatherings in An Unmarried Woman

Maggie Smith playing an actress who loses an Oscar only to win an Oscar in real life for said performance. Surely the only time this has ever happened? (California Suite)

The painful experience of watching the unforgivably cartoonish Same Time, Next Year

The butchery scene in In a Year of 13 Moons; a raw collision of visual and aural assault quite unlike anything I’ve experienced

Speaking of; graphic slaughterhouse scenes in Killer of Sheep and In a Year of 13 Moons

John Savage in The Deer Hunter
John Savage in The Deer Hunter

Jesus H. Christ I had suppressed the grueling Russian Roulette-as-dramatic-device scenes in The Deer Hunter. Sound and image marry the casual pandemonium of the room with the intimate begging and communicative gazing between the actors. Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage are all-in, and the experience looks legitimately tormenting for all

The rigorous training section of The 36th Chamber of ShaolinBody as focus, object of transformation and unparalleled discipline

The aggressively unfunny bedroom farce vignette of California Suite with Walter Matthau and Elaine May. Who would have thought that A New Leaf reunion could taste so sour?

The way the blow-up doll floats out of Dudley Moore’s closet in Foul Play

Emotional piano-playing in Autumn Sonata and The Deer Hunter

Christopher Plummer in The Silent Partner
Christopher Plummer in The Silent Partner

Crucial lesson learned from The Silent Partner; whatever you do, do not fuck with Christopher Plummer

Mother and daughter bed confessional in The Meetings of Anna

The charged sexual chemistry between Jane Fonda and Jon Voight in Coming Home 

The ingenious reveal that “Jeepers Creepers” is the “As Time Goes By” equivalent in the spoof The Cheap Detective

The immediate and out-of-nowhere inciting incident in Blue Sunshine

Jeff Goldblum, about to utter "Gorgeous" to himself in Thank God It's Friday
Jeff Goldblum, about to utter “Gorgeous” to himself in Thank God It’s Friday

Jeff Goldblum’s entrance in Thank God It’s Friday

Debut films from Robert Zemeckis (I Wanna Hold Your Hand), Errol Morris (Gates of Heaven), Paul Schrader (Blue Collar)

The Neils of The Last Waltz

The eternal magic hour coupled with Linda Manz’s narration in Days of Heaven 

What a year for horror; even if you don’t like half of these it’s an impressive group: (Halloween, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dawn of the Dead, The Fury, Blue Sunshine, The Shout, Long Weekend, Martin, Alucarda, Magic, The Mafu Cage, Eyes of Laura Mars, Patrick, Piranha, The Grapes of Death, etc)

SecretWanna2_jpg_627x1000_q85

Nancy Allen in the Beatles’s hotel room, molesting and lusting over leftovers, instruments and whatever else she can get her hands on. In a just world, these moments would be iconic (I Wanna Hold Your Hand)

Mia Farrow playing crazy ladies (Death on the Nile, A Wedding). In A Wedding she’s like a woman-child version of that creepy photo from Repulsion

The “Born to Hand Jive” scene in Grease, my favorite movie scene as a young teen. Still watch it constantly. Actually, can you all hold on for just a few minutes? *runs off*

“Can you read my mind?” (Superman)

The shopping montages of Dawn of the Dead

Instances of films I’m conflicted about being ultimately more memorable and/or must-see than ‘solid’ works (Fedora, A Wedding, Remember My Name, Jubilee)

Brad Davis in Midnight Express
Brad Davis in Midnight Express

Well hello there Brad Davis (Midnight Express)

Paul Dooley and Dennis Christopher playing father and son in A Wedding, a year before Breaking Away

Diana Ross frantically running away from crows in The Wiz

Greatest ending ever or greatest ending ever? (The Fury)

The truly brutal child abuse/abandonment/killing in The Demon

Nell Campbell in Jubilee
Nell Campbell in Jubilee

My slight obsession with Nell Campbell resurfaces (Jubilee)

Greatest final line to a film?; “The electric blanket I had sent her came back undelivered.” (voiceover) (Fedora)

Another great final moment:
Peter: “How much fuel do we have?”
Fran: “Not much”
Peter: (with a shrug of a delivery) “……alright” (Dawn of the Dead)

2 of the 5 Best Picture nominees being about women and their sexuality, their experiences, their lives. Can this please stop being an anomaly? I’m begging you (Coming Home, An Unmarried Woman)

Melanie Mayron as Susan Weinblatt = my new hero (Girlfriends)

Eyes of Laura Mars 2
Tommy Lee Jones in Eyes of Laura Mars
Tim Curry
Tim Curry in The Shout

 Tommy Lee Jones + turtlenecks/Tim Curry + V-neck sweater (Eyes of Laura Mars, The Shout)

Least Favorite Characters of 1978: George (Alan Alda; Same Time, Next Year), Joey (Mary Beth Hurt; Interiors – basically everyone in Interiors except Pearl, but Joey especially for her disgusting ‘vulgarian’ remark), Kehaar (voiced by Zero Mostel; Watership Down)Richard ‘Ringo’ Klaus (Eddie Deezen; I Wanna Hold Your Hand), all the supporting dudes in Grease, everyone in The Demon, the central couple in Long Weekend, Toyoji (Tatsuya Fuji); Empire of Passion)

“Intelligence would take the bloom off your carnality” (Despair)

Sample dialogue from Avalanche:
Mia Farrow: (looking at a picture on the wall) “What is that?”
Robert Forster: “Guess”
Mia Farrow: “A goat?”
Robert Forster: “A ram”
Mia Farrow: “Oh, a ram”

Kathy Bates in Straight Time
Kathy Bates in Straight Time

Introducing! Dennis Franz (A Wedding, The Fury, Remember My Name), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Daryl Hannah (The Fury), Eddie Deezen (Grease, I Wanna Hold Your Hand), Jim Broadbent (The Shout), James Cromwell (The Cheap Detective), Kathy Bates (Straight Time), Alfre Woodard (Remember My Name), Mark McClure (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Superman, Coming Home), Kevin Bacon (National Lampoon’s Animal House)

“A space flower?” (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

Christopher Plummer, dead and in drag, descending down the escalator in The Silent Partner

Depiction of nature as something all-consuming and inescapable in Empire of Passion

The amazing wall-to-wall disco soundtrack in the preposterously fun Thank God It’s Friday

Superman2Clark
Christopher Reeve in Superman

Fully appreciating Christopher Reeve in Superman; adorable, eerily perfect, his performance pitched so we somehow buy into a world where mere glasses can obscure Clark Kent’s identity

The ‘Shout’ scene in National Lampoon’s Animal House

The near bottomless slapstick fun of Drunken Master

The revelatory and genuinely unnerving work by Geraldine Chaplin in Remember My Name and Carol Kane in The Mafu Cage

Capricorn One desperately needing to ditch everything and become a deadpan detective romcom with Elliot Gould and Karen Black

The rare female protagonist at the center of a 1970’s conspiracy thriller (Coma) (the only other example I know of is The Stepford Wives)

Panna a Netvor
Panna a Netvor

Realizing that the beast in Panna a Netvor is actually Birdman

Roaming through the streets of ‘Haddonfield’ in broad daylight (Halloween)

The “how do we know you’re that good” scene in The Driver

Bruce Conner + Devo = perfect combination (Mongoloid)

“I love you once, I love you twice
I love you more than beans and rice” (Pretty Baby)

“Peggy Ann Snow, Peggy Ann Snow
Please let me follow wherever you go” (Magic)

an_unmarried_woman_1_mazursky

Jill Clayburgh ballet-prancing in her undies in An Unmarried Woman

The dummy in Magic making me scream out loud in terror

Aging male stars from 50’s Hollywood in their tighty-wighties (Kirk Douglas in The Fury, William Holden in Fedora)

Queen Isabelle Huppert kicking off her reign of enigmatic and unknowable women in Violette Noziere

Annie’s hiked-up yellow socks in Halloween

Re-enacting Jerry Lewis (In a Year of 13 Moons)

The re-watch of Halloween that finally clicked for me in a big way

The Detective: “I really like chasing you”
The Driver: “Sounds like you’ve got a problem” (The Driver)

Jordan in Jubilee
Jordan in Jubilee

The women of Jubilee, especially Jordan lip-syncing to Suzi Pinns’s “Rule Britannia”. Everyone else can go home

The far more compelling than they needed to be supporting cast of Eyes of Laura Mars (Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, René Auberjonois)

Speaking of great casts, pretty sure the combination of Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum can’t be topped (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

Banner Years for (not exhaustive): Brooke Adams (Days of Heaven, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Richard Pryor (Blue Collar, The Wiz, California Suite), Gordon Liu (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Heroes of the East, Shaolin Mantis (haven’t seen last one), Elliott Gould (The Silent Partner, Capricorn One, The Big Sleep (haven’t see the last one)), Mia Farrow (Death on the Nile, Avalanche, A Wedding), Maggie Smith (Death on the Nile, California Suite), Suzannah York (The Shout, Superman, The Silent Partner), Jeff Goldblum (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Thank God It’s Friday, Remember My Name), Alan Bates (The Shout, An Unmarried Woman), John Hurt (Midnight Express, The Shout, Watership Down (voice), The Lord of the Rings (voice) (haven’t seen last one)), Jane Fonda (Coming Home, California Suite, Comes a Horseman (haven’t seen last one))

So many things I could pick from The Fury, but I’ll go with the peppy Paragon Institute montage accompanied by a proto-Harry Potter section of John Williams’s score (Video games are played! Frisbees are thrown! Laughs are had! Dogs are played with!)

Girlfriends 3

Girlfriends 2Girlfriends 1

All the sketchy dudes that pop up in Girlfriends

The “get Fats to shut up for five minutes” scene in Magic

The final scene of Capricorn One bringing me to tears (from laughter; slow-motion been more hilarious)

The pants burning scene in Drunken Master bringing me to tears (also from laughter)

The mosaic of evocative naturalism in Killer of Sheep  

Suggested 1978 Double Features:
The Fury/Eyes of Laura Mars (telekinetic horror cinema that plays with the act of ‘seeing’ to create intimacy with characters; filmmakers finding ways of allowing a film to interact with itself)
You Are Not Alone/Pretty Baby (Naturalistic coming-of-age films with controversial material regarding the telling/depiction of children (using child actors) in stories focused on sex/nudity. You can also thrown in The Demon for really thorny treatment of children but re: violence)
Violette Noziere/Remember My Name (Elusive Women Double Feature)
I Wanna Hold Your Hand/Thank God It’s Friday (Music-centric One Crazy Day/Night films)
The Shout/Long Weekend (use of sound/horror relating to Australia)
Drunken Master/Superman (Adorable Leading Men)

Favorite Shots of 1978 (in no way is this exhaustive. It’s more of a sampling):

A Wedding
A Wedding
fury7big
The Fury
Halloween
Halloween
Jubilee
Jubilee
Pretty Baby
Pretty Baby
Straight Time
Straight Time
The Fury
The Fury
The Demon
The Demon
Days of Heaven
Days of Heaven
The Meetings of Anna
The Meetings of Anna
Days of Heaven
Days of Heaven
Killer of Sheep
Killer of Sheep
The Shout
The Shout
The Deer Hunter
The Deer Hunter
The Deer Hunter
The Deer Hunter
Autumn Sonata
Autumn Sonata
In a Year of 13 Moons
In a Year of 13 Moons
The Demon
The Demon
The Mafu Cage
The Mafu Cage
Violette Noziere
Violette Noziere
Satiemania
Satiemania
Krabat (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)
Krabat (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
Watership Down
Watership Down
Coma
Coma
The Driver
The Driver
In a Year of 13 Moons
In a Year of 13 Moons
The Fury
The Fury
Long Weekend
Long Weekend
The Mafu Cage
The Mafu Cage
Killer of Sheep
Killer of Sheep
Days of Heaven
Days of Heaven
The Mafu Cage
The Mafu Cage
The Deer Hunter
The Deer Hunter
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4 thoughts on “What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1978: A Love Letter

  1. Tom says:

    I absolutely love these features/posts. Gives me so much insight into just a *single year* in film history. There is too much to know!

  2. […] A series that I don’t link to NEARLY often enough is Catherine Stebbins’ Love Letters to individual years in film. She zeroes in on one year at a time and digs in…digs deep…asks for suggestions…and goes beyond the usual suspects. Recently she tackled the year I was born and capped it all off with a truly epic love letter to the films of 1978. Give it a look. […]

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