I’ve always loved Hollywood movies of the 1970s. It has something to do with my wishing I had been part of the student protests that opened the decade – like the burning of the Bank of America in my home town of Isla Vista, California. Wishing I had been at Woodstock to witness a generation’s high point, and the beginning of its end, also plays a role. Mostly though, it’s a reaction to seeing my parents trembling with hushed tones in the kitchen trying to hide these events from me.
American movies during those times of unrest and Richard Nixon were notable for taking their cameras into the real world, away from Hollywood’s sets and stars. Also characteristic were frank and free explorations of sexuality, downbeat, ambiguous endings, and conflicted characters that left audiences grasping and asking: Was I supposed to like that hero?
“America Lost and Found: The BBS Story,” a rich new box set that combines seven movies released from 1968 through 1972, some well-known – Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show – some not so well known – Head (starring The Monkees), Drive, He Said, and The King of Marvin Gardens – and one forgotten – A Safe Place, feels like a primer on 1970s Hollywood.
Now, thanks to this set, we can see Head, a box office disaster that forced one of the greatest taglines in movie history to be abandoned. It’s actually a fun and inventive movie, though far more politically serious than the television show, which explains it failure.
Peter Bogdanovich insisted on shooting entirely in the town that inspired Larry McMurtry. The pool party with Jacy stripping on a diving board perfectly captures the era’s freewheeling sexuality, and no ending is bleaker than its encounter between Sonny and Ruth Popper that dissolves into an image of the town’s desolate main street with one forever blinking traffic light.