Top 5 New York City Movies from the ’70s

In response to this summer’s “New York in the 70s” film festival at Film Forum, MovefiedNYC decided to repost our first list, the “Top Five NYC Movies from the ’70s.”  The choice for our first list was obvious; it had to come from our own backyard, a place and time—now perhaps mythological—of unrelenting creativity, expression, and guts.  A town broke, dangerous, black-and-white and obscured by sweat and steam: New York City in 1970’s, the place that made our love for film like a beginning buzz (from one too many cocktails) that turned into a continuous intoxication.  -JDW & MD

John David’s Top Five 1970s NYC

Broadway, high fashion, yellow cabs, prostitutes, and neurotic intellectuals who romanticize their lives in black ‘n’ white. These are some of the images that helped form my Top Five New York City movies from the 1970s.

 1. Taxi Driver (1976)

Like the bankrupt city on edge, ready to crack under the pressure of urban decay, sleaze and political distrustTaxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, paranoid and alienated from society, looks at himself in the mirror and asks, “Are you talking to me?” Is he having fun or is Scorsese speaking what’s on the viewer’s mind? Thirty-six years later we’re still imitating DeNiro’s line. This movie has all the grit of the ’70s gritty city. Taxi Driver plays like an indexical sign that proves to us today that the mythological gritty 1970s New York City did exist.

 2. Manhattan (1979)

Every now and then I find myself in one of those “Wow-I-Love-This-City” moments. Woody Allen shares those same feelings in his 1979 film Manhattan.  The city is a character that we along with Allen romanticize. Annie Hall seemed like the obvious choice, but then Manhattan stepped up, as if to say, “Really? Let’s get serious, I have New York City shot in black-and-white, widescreen Panavision aspect ratio (2.35:1) with a nine-minute montage of New York City set to George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue!” Yes, OK, Manhattan, you win: all that and that iconic 4 A.M. shot in front of the Queensborough Bridge secure Manhattan on my list.

 3. All That Jazz (1979)

Fosse submerges his autobiographical self into the character of Joe Gideon, a hyper-sexed, director/choreographer who pops Dexedrine, screws sexy dancers, neglects his loved ones, chain smokes (even in the shower) and works himself to a perfectly choreographed death. It’s the ’70s: the Me decade, cynical and all about Fosse. The opening audition scene set to George Benson’s “On Broadway” captures the desire, joy and disappointment every dancer feels who wants to be on Broadway. 

4. Klute (1971)

New York City as it enters a decade on the brink of a meltdown. Jane Fonda plays a call girl who is complex, vulnerable, and lacks that ever-expected heart of gold. Besides Fonda’s brilliant performance, what makes this film memorable is a shot from inside a stark, corporate office on the upper floor of a high-rise. Through floor-to-ceiling windows, we see the two towers of the World Trade Center under construction. A financially powerful man sits at his desk, diminished against the multiple cranes high in the air, constructing the tallest buildings in the world. The image takes on new meaning when one realizes that the mass of construction outside the window will someday fall to a heap of destruction that will affect us all. 

5. Eyesof Laura Mars (1978)

1970s disco-fashion juxtaposed against ’70s New York City grit. Ultra glamorous Fay Dunaway is Laura Mars, a fashion photographer who wields a Nikon camera to photograph sexy models in stylized violent murder settings: Columbus Circle ablaze with overturned cars on fire as glossy girls wearing lingerie and fur coats pull each other’s hair. The violence is thrust right back at Laura when a serial killer turns her photos into real murders.  The character of Laura doubles as the camera when she witnesses the murders through the killer’s eyes, while they are happening, through her own eyes.  The film’s director, Irvin Kershner, turns the movie’s view of violence on the audience: are we looking at the eyes or are the eyes looking at us?

Myrna’s Top Five 1970’s NYC

NYC as it was in the ’70s. Sex, drugs, street gangs, disco divas, politicians, the homeless, celebrities, musicians, hookers, and some major attitude. So many great films to choose from; it is almost impossible to leave any of them off this list. I went with my gut, what I liked: candy over substance most times. I took a deep breath, wrote down five titles and never looked back.

 1. The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1974)

“Respect My Ass!”  screams Mel, and I do. Neil Simon’s slice of New York city life—once again like in The Out of Towners, not a very nice place—in Prisoner of Second Avenue is rich in its mundane everyday quality, shrouded in genuine humor delivered brilliantly by the cast. The pounding New York City heat wave is so palpable it is a character in the film. The Prisoner of Second Avenue shows us witty New Yorkers on the verge of, and breaking down in, their urban habitat, pacing back and forth, drowning in the ever—relentless noise—wrapped in a high rise box.

2. The French Connection (1971)

“Doyle fights dirty and he plays rough, but that’s ok because Doyle is a good cop” —growls the trailer.  Let’s be honest: New York looks better in grit than any other city, and The French Connection’s grimy realism and downbeat ending are refreshing. Popeye Doyle—not your classic hero—violent, racist and mean-spirited. His dedication to his job, just short of dangerous obsession—a New Yorker! The film’s high point, a high-speed car chase with Doyle tailing an elevated train, was one of the most exciting screen moments of its day. The French Connection gives me the visceral charge that keeps me addicted to New York.

 3. Shaft (1971) 

I can not ignore the blaxploitation genre when talking about the New York of the 1970s. Shaft full of mood, attitude and fashion. Brought the world—the Harlem-dude look of feather-hat, platform boots and silver-top cane—what delicious eye candy! The theme song also unforgettable . Shaft took us all over the city; he lived in the Village, worked in Times Square and cruised up and down 125th Street.  Can you dig it?  

4. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

John Travolta strutting down the streets of Brooklyn to his dead end job changed the world as we knew it. No one ever walked down the street the same way again. He escapes to the local disco, where he is/was King and dreams for a better life in Manhattan. Don’t we all? Fever is dripping with a  gritty sense of the ’70s economic malaise that plagued New York. Dance numbers, the Bee Gees soundtrack and Travolta’s white-suited presence all set in the city of dreams. “They had me at hello” 

5. All That Jazz (1979)
“It’s showtime!” Director and choreographer Bob Fosse takes a Felliniesque look at the life of a driven entertainer (some say his own life)—Joe Gideon. The ultimate work-and-pleasure aholic. All That Jazz shows the merciless price you pay to be an entertainer, taking us from realistic dance numbers to extravagant flights of cinematic fancy with Gideon as our guide; he meditates on his life, his women and his death. A ll That Jazz is a  fiercely personal personal film. Roy Scheider’s brilliant performance as Joe Gideon leaves me wanting for more every time.

 

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Top Five NYC Subway Movies

Believe it or not, over five million people take the NYC subway every day. Together, we straphangers form something of a subterranean family: a couple of times a day, we call the subway car our home; we avoid eye contact, don’t talk to each other, get into an occasional yelling match; a typical dysfunctional family living in a world contained in a tube. New Yorkers have a love/hate relationship with the subway. On the one hand, it’s dirty and rat infested; rush hour is like the running of the bulls, and it’s a freakin’ oven in the summer. On the other hand (and somewhat ironically), it’s actually a place to be alone. Thanks to portable media, it’s easier than ever to check out and read a book, listen to music, watch a movie, and most importantly nod off.

As a couple of New Yorkers who’ve spent more time than we could possibly count speeding through a hole in the ground, we’ve each compiled lists of our five favorite New York City subway movies. There are countless films where the subway has played a significant role: The Naked City (1948)The French Connection (1971)Ghost (1990)Godzilla (1998), and Bananas (1971) just to name a few. Here are the films that have affected us in one way or another, either by transporting us to dangerous 1970s NYC (represented here by five films in on our combined lists), or thrilling us as we hide from monsters or, wowed by unforgettable cinematic moments with Monroe and Travolta.
—John David West
David’s Top Five Subway Movies

1. The Warriors (1979) 
WE got the streets, suckers! Can you dig it?
Following a citywide gang meeting in the Bronx that goes bad, the Warriors are falsely accused of assassinating Cyrus, the leader of the Gramercy Riffs. It’s a long journey home for the Warriors—who travelled all the way from Coney Island to the bad-ass Bronx, and now they must get back to their own turf, making this the ultimate NYC road trip film. The opening credits of this cult classic play like a music video as we are introduced to an unforgettable, what-were-they-thinking assortment of street gangs: there’s the Baseball Furies decked out in New York Yankees uniforms with their faces brightly painted as they silently run about like angry Yankees mimes; the army size, “Kung Fu” fighting Gramercy Riffs; the denim-overalls clad Punks, led by a roller-skating, switchblade wielding banger; the all female Lizzies (need I say more?), and, of course, The Warriors, wearing open leather vests revealing bare chestsNo matter how you look at it, following the Warriors is a good time in the NYC subway. Can you dig it? 
Now, this is important—I’m talking about the version with Robert Shaw and Walter Matthau, not the 2009 remake with John Travolta. As if the dangerous, dirty, graffiti battered NYC subway wasn’t bad enough, four men wielding semi-automatic guns hijack a subway car and demand a million dollars in exchange for the release of the passengers. With all of the grit that you’d expect from that era and some great location shots, the original Pelham is a must for any fan of 1970s NYC movies. Check out Union Square East near the film’s end(Not a Sephora or a Barnes & Noble in sight…)

3. Death Wish (1974)
Death Wish plays like an early ’70s NYC travelogue, as successful architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson), takes revenge on local criminals for murdering his wife and raping his daughter. While one might argue that the film advocates gun violence and vigilantism, it’s hard not to enjoy watching a regular Joe, alone on a train, gun down a couple of threatening muggers. In a city with rampant unemployment and a high crime rate, mugging was an unfortunate reality for too many New Yorkers; Death Wish seems to reflect the attitude of a crime-weary population looking for retribution on the big screen.
Saturday Night Fever managed to capture the vibe and angst of New York City’s dissatisfied youth of the late ’70s, who wanted nothing more than to escape from life’s realities and have fun at the disco. It’s a musical drama where the musical numbers happen without singing on the dance floor. It’s a time capsule of the very brief ’70s disco-era, and it’s what shot John Travolta from TV stardom to big screen stardom. But more than anything, it’s incredibly well made: perhaps one of the best New York City movies of all time. Though Saturday Night Fever is not a subway-heavy film like Pelham, this is a movie where an all-night subway ride brilliantly sums up Tony’s (John Travolta) growth as a character. Disillusioned and bruised, still wearing the iconic tight white suit, he leaves behind his friends in Brooklyn. As he sits alone in a graffitied subway car, while the Bee Gee’s “How Deep is your Love” plays in the foreground, he rides all night reflecting and ultimately realizing that he has to break away from his destructive Brooklyn life and build a new, perhaps “deeper” life in Manhattan. 
5. Beat Street (1984) 
Beat Street showcases the South Bronx, griffitied trains, break dancing, and rap, as this early hip-hop culture infused movie seems to take its inspiration directly from the 1983 PBS documentary Style Wars.  Featuring many young spirited artists including Seen, the one-armed graffiti writer Case, and break-dancer Crazy Legs of Rock Steady Crew, Style Wars was filmed in and around the graffiti “bombed” subway trains as it takes viewers into the tunnels, shows the artists tagging walls, painting subway cars, at home working on designs, and even at their own art exhibitions. The documentary asks the question, is graffiti vandalism or art?  Beat Street doesn’t get too deep but, like Style Wars, it’s an in-the-moment of a cultural explosion that’s shot on location and takes viewers into the subway tunnels and even inside a train car for some spontaneous breakin’. Consider both Beat Street and Style Wars as a Saturday night double-feature and immerse yourself in early ’80s NYC, hip-hop, rap, b-boy breakin’, outspoken Ed Koch yappin’, taggin’ and bombin’, and plenty of subway cars covered in eye-poppin’ “artistically inspired art,” yes art!
Myrna’s Top Five Subway Movies
In The Seven Year Itch, director Billy Wilder immortalized the New York City subway in the scene where Tom Ewell (Richard Sherman) and Marilyn Monroe (The Girl) saunter outside the Trans-Lux Theatre as a gust of wind from a passing subway train blows Monroe’s dress up around her waist and reveals a glimpse of her underwear. No, that scene does not occur in the subway system, but it is thanks to the subway that we have one of the most iconic images of cinema history.

2. The Exorcist (1973)
Directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist a horrific story about devil possession and the subsequent exorcism of the demonic spirits from a young, innocent girl of a divorced family. The subway in The Exorcist appears as a portal to the dark side in the psyche of guilt-ridden Father Karras who is tormented with remorse for not being present at his mother’s death and begins doubting his decision to become a priest.

After the lights are turned out as Father Karras falls asleep, a montage of dreamy images flash through his consciousness, mixing glimpses of his mother and her ascent and descent into death with the same surrealistic images taken from previous scenes accompanying Father Merrin in Iraq: a free-falling Christian medal: a ferocious, growling desert dog running toward the camera; Karras’ mother staring straight ahead; the pendulum of a clock swinging. Suddenly, Karras’ mother rises from an underground subway in New York City; he waves from a traffic island toward her, and though his mother calls out, she doesn’t see him. As a ghoulish, ghostly-white demonic face appears, Karras pursues his mother across traffic on a busy street and she descends back into the subway entrance.

In another scene, Karras rises up from an underground stairwell, emerging onto a train platform where the tracks shoot jets of steam and we see a soft-drink vending machine emblazoned with the words: “TRAVEL REFRESHED.” On the dirty, trash-littered platform, he turns to hear a drunk begging with outstretched hand: “Father, could you help an old altar boy? I’m Cat’lick.” Too wrapped up in his own problems and unable to be charitable in this subway encounter, the Father turns away from the wretched man whose bearded, sweaty face is momentarily illuminated in flashes by the window lights of a passing train.


The French Connection was directed by William Friedkin (the second time he appears on this list) provides one of the most harrowing and memorable car chase sequences ever filmed. Car versus elevated train and no CGI anywhere to be found. The chase involves NYC cop ‘Popeye’ Doyle commandeering a civilian’s car and then frantically chasing an elevated train, on which a hitman is trying to escape. It was filmed in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn running under the D and B Line, which runs on an elevated track above Stillwell Avenue, 86th Street and New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn, with the chase ending just north of the 62nd Street station after the train crashed into another train up ahead. 

William Friedkin’s police drama portrays two tough New York City cops trying to intercept a huge heroin shipment coming from France. An interesting contrast is established between ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Gene Hackman), a short-tempered alcoholic bigot who is nevertheless a hard-working and dedicated police officer, and his nemesis Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), a suave and urbane gentleman who is nevertheless a criminal and one of the largest drug suppliers of pure heroin to North America. 


4. Cloverfield (2008)
Directed by Matt Reeves, Coverfield follows five New Yorkers from the perspective of a hand-held video camera. The movie is exactly the length of a DV Tape and a sub-plot is established by showing bits and pieces of video previously recorded on the tape that is being recorded over. The movie starts as a monster of unknown origin destroys a nearby building. As these five friends go to investigate, parts of the building and the head of the Statue of Liberty come raining down. The movie follows their adventure trying to escape through the New York City subway system and to save a friend, a love interest of the main character. 

A good portion of Cloverfield takes place underground, as the movie’s core group of friends makes their way up the pitch-black 6 train tracks from Spring and Lafayette to 59th and Lex. They are attacked relentlessly in the tunnel by quick-moving monster parasites and one of them is finally bitten. If you are like me always wonder what else lives in the subway tunnels.

Below New York, directed by Matt Filin, is a unique and stylized look at some of New York City’s finest subway musicians, performers, and artists. Through a series of polished vignettes, the film draws the audience into the lives these local performers lead, and shows how their quest for a venue and sustenance adds a truly wonderful aesthetic to one of the greatest cities in the world.

_

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Care to visit 1970s NYC this summer? Summer Movie Series at Mid-Manhattan Library

This summer take a journey back to New York City in the ’70s as the Mid-Manhattan Library revisits the gritty streets of 1970s New York City on Film. Starting this Wednesday, June 5 at 7:00pm, cruise through Times Square in platform boots with mood, attitude, and fashion as they present the blaxploitation classic Shaft. The ’70s retrospect continues all summer long and ends on August 21 with a subway ride through gang territory from the South Bronx to Coney Island in 1979’s The Warriors. The program features a subject near and dear to MoviefiedNYCmovies shot on location in NYC.  Each evening will include an introduction to the film as well as a guided discussion afterwards.
DATE FILM YEAR
DIRECTOR
June 5, 2013 Shaft 1971
Gordon Parks
June 12, 2013 Klute 1971
Alan J. Pakula
June 19, 2013 Super Fly 1972
Gordon Parks, Jr.
June 26, 2013 The Godfather 1972
Francis Ford Coppola
July 3, 2013 Across 110th Street 1972
Barry Shear
July 10, 2013 Serpico 1973
Sidney Lumet
July 24, 2013 Mean Streets 1973
Martin Scorsese
July 31, 2013 Three Days of the Condor 1975
Sydney Pollack
August 7, 2013 Network 1976
Sidney Lumet
August 14, 2013 Saturday Night Fever 1977
John Badham
August 21, 2013 The Warriors 1979
Walter Hill

All film screenings listed above are FREE and held in the first floor corner room of Mid-Manhattan Library. Seating is first-come, first-served.

Mid-Manhattan Library
455 Fifth Avenue (at 40th Street)

New York, NY 10016-0122

Twitter: @moviefiednyc

Submissions: moviefiednyc@gmail.com

Join our mailing: moviefiednyc@gmail.com

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MoviefiedNYC’s Top Five NYC Subway Movies

Believe it or not, over five million people take the NYC subway every day. Together, we straphangers form something of a subterranean family: a couple of times a day, we call the subway car our home; we avoid eye contact, don’t talk to each other, get into an occasional yelling match; a typical dysfunctional family living in a world contained in a tube. New Yorkers have a love/hate relationship with the subway. On the one hand, it’s dirty and rat infested; rush hour is like the running of the bulls, and it’s a freakin’ oven in the summer. On the other hand (and somewhat ironically), it’s actually a place to be alone. Thanks to portable media, it’s easier than ever to check out and read a book, listen to music, watch a movie, and most importantly nod off.


As a couple of New Yorkers who’ve spent more time than we could possibly count speeding through a hole in the ground, we’ve each compiled lists of our five favorite New York City subway movies. There are countless films where the subway has played a significant role: The Naked City (1948), The French Connection (1971), Ghost (1990), Godzilla (1998), and Bananas (1971) just to name a few. Here are the films that have affected us in one way or another, either by transporting us to dangerous 1970s NYC (represented here by five films in on our combined lists), or thrilling us as we hide from monsters or, wowed by unforgettable cinematic moments with Monroe and Travolta.

—John David West

David’s Top Five Subway Movies


1. The Warriors (1979) 

WE got the streets, suckers! Can you dig it?

Following a citywide gang meeting in the Bronx that goes bad, the Warriors are falsely accused of assassinating Cyrus, the leader of the Gramercy Riffs. It’s a long journey home for the Warriors—who travelled all the way from Coney Island to the bad-ass Bronx, and now they must get back to their own turf, making this the ultimate NYC road trip film. The opening credits of this cult classic play like a music video as we are introduced to an unforgettable, what-were-they-thinking assortment of street gangs: there’s the Baseball Furies decked out in New York Yankees uniforms with their faces brightly painted as they silently run about like angry Yankees mimes; the army size, “Kung Fu” fighting Gramercy Riffs; the denim-overalls clad Punks, led by a roller-skating, switchblade wielding banger; the all female Lizzies (need I say more?), and, of course, The Warriors, wearing open leather vests revealing bare chests. No matter how you look at it, following the Warriors is a good time in the NYC subway. Can you dig it? 

2. Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) 

Now, this is important—I’m talking about the version with Robert Shaw and Walter Matthau, not the 2009 remake with John Travolta. As if the dangerous, dirty, graffiti battered NYC subway wasn’t bad enough, four men wielding semi-automatic guns hijack a subway car and demand a million dollars in exchange for the release of the passengers. With all of the grit that you’d expect from that era and some great location shots, the original Pelham is a must for any fan of 1970s NYC movies. Check out Union Square East near the film’s end. (Not a Sephora or a Barnes & Noble in sight…)


3. Death Wish (1974)

Death Wish plays like an early ’70s NYC travelogue, as successful architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson), takes revenge on local criminals for murdering his wife and raping his daughter. While one might argue that the film advocates gun violence and vigilantism, it’s hard not to enjoy watching a regular Joe, alone on a train, gun down a couple of threatening muggers. In a city with rampant unemployment and a high crime rate, mugging was an unfortunate reality for too many New Yorkers; Death Wish seems to reflect the attitude of a crime-weary population looking for retribution on the big screen.

4. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Saturday Night Fever managed to capture the vibe and angst of New York City’s dissatisfied youth of the late ’70s, who wanted nothing more than to escape from life’s realities and have fun at the disco. It’s a musical drama where the musical numbers happen without singing on the dance floor. It’s a time capsule of the very brief ’70s disco-era, and it’s what shot John Travolta from TV stardom to big screen stardom. But more than anything, it’s incredibly well made: perhaps one of the best New York City movies of all time. Though Saturday Night Fever is not a subway-heavy film like Pelham, this is a movie where an all-night subway ride brilliantly sums up Tony’s (John Travolta) growth as a character. Disillusioned and bruised, still wearing the iconic tight white suit, he leaves behind his friends in Brooklyn. As he sits alone in a graffitied subway car, while the Bee Gee’s “How Deep is your Love” plays in the foreground, he rides all night reflecting and ultimately realizing that he has to break away from his destructive Brooklyn life and build a new, perhaps “deeper” life in Manhattan. 


5. Beat Street (1984) 

Beat Street showcases the South Bronx, griffitied trains, break dancing, and rap, as this early hip-hop culture infused movie seems to take its inspiration directly from the 1983 PBS documentary Style Wars.  Featuring many young spirited artists including Seen, the one-armed graffiti writer Case, and break-dancer Crazy Legs of Rock Steady Crew, Style Wars was filmed in and around the graffiti “bombed” subway trains as it takes viewers into the tunnels, shows the artists tagging walls, painting subway cars, at home working on designs, and even at their own art exhibitions. The documentary asks the question, is graffiti vandalism or art?  Beat Street doesn’t get too deep but, like Style Wars, it’s an in-the-moment of a cultural explosion that’s shot on location and takes viewers into the subway tunnels and even inside a train car for some spontaneous breakin’. Consider both Beat Street and Style Wars as a Saturday night double-feature and immerse yourself in early ’80s NYC, hip-hop, rap, b-boy breakin’, outspoken Ed Koch yappin’, taggin’ and bombin’, and plenty of subway cars covered in eye-poppin’ “artistically inspired art,” yes art!

Myrna’s Top Five Subway Movies

1. The Seven Year Itch (1955)

In The Seven Year Itch, director Billy Wilder immortalized the New York City subway in the scene where Tom Ewell (Richard Sherman) and Marilyn Monroe (The Girl) saunter outside the Trans-Lux Theatre as a gust of wind from a passing subway train blows Monroe’s dress up around her waist and reveals a glimpse of her underwear. No, that scene does not occur in the subway system, but it is thanks to the subway that we have one of the most iconic images of cinema history.


2. The Exorcist (1973)
Directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist a horrific story about devil possession and the subsequent exorcism of the demonic spirits from a young, innocent girl of a divorced family. The subway in The Exorcist appears as a portal to the dark side in the psyche of guilt-ridden Father Karras who is tormented with remorse for not being present at his mother’s death and begins doubting his decision to become a priest.


After the lights are turned out as Father Karras falls asleep, a montage of dreamy images flash through his consciousness, mixing glimpses of his mother and her ascent and descent into death with the same surrealistic images taken from previous scenes accompanying Father Merrin in Iraq: a free-falling Christian medal: a ferocious, growling desert dog running toward the camera; Karras’ mother staring straight ahead; the pendulum of a clock swinging. Suddenly, Karras’ mother rises from an underground subway in New York City; he waves from a traffic island toward her, and though his mother calls out, she doesn’t see him. As a ghoulish, ghostly-white demonic face appears, Karras pursues his mother across traffic on a busy street and she descends back into the subway entrance.

In another scene, Karras rises up from an underground stairwell, emerging onto a train platform where the tracks shoot jets of steam and we see a soft-drink vending machine emblazoned with the words: “TRAVEL REFRESHED.” On the dirty, trash-littered platform, he turns to hear a drunk begging with outstretched hand: “Father, could you help an old altar boy? I’m Cat’lick.” Too wrapped up in his own problems and unable to be charitable in this subway encounter, the Father turns away from the wretched man whose bearded, sweaty face is momentarily illuminated in flashes by the window lights of a passing train.


The French Connection was directed by William Friedkin (the second time he appears on this list) provides one of the most harrowing and memorable car chase sequences ever filmed. Car versus elevated train and no CGI anywhere to be found. The chase involves NYC cop ‘Popeye’ Doyle commandeering a civilian’s car and then frantically chasing an elevated train, on which a hitman is trying to escape. It was filmed in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn running under the D and B Line, which runs on an elevated track above Stillwell Avenue, 86th Street and New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn, with the chase ending just north of the 62nd Street station after the train crashed into another train up ahead. 

William Friedkin’s police drama portrays two tough New York City cops trying to intercept a huge heroin shipment coming from France. An interesting contrast is established between ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Gene Hackman), a short-tempered alcoholic bigot who is nevertheless a hard-working and dedicated police officer, and his nemesis Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), a suave and urbane gentleman who is nevertheless a criminal and one of the largest drug suppliers of pure heroin to North America. 

4. Cloverfield (2008)

Directed by Matt Reeves, Coverfield follows five New Yorkers from the perspective of a hand-held video camera. The movie is exactly the length of a DV Tape and a sub-plot is established by showing bits and pieces of video previously recorded on the tape that is being recorded over. The movie starts as a monster of unknown origin destroys a nearby building. As these five friends go to investigate, parts of the building and the head of the Statue of Liberty come raining down. The movie follows their adventure trying to escape through the New York City subway system and to save a friend, a love interest of the main character. 

A good portion of Cloverfield takes place underground, as the movie’s core group of friends makes their way up the pitch-black 6 train tracks from Spring and Lafayette to 59th and Lex. They are attacked relentlessly in the tunnel by quick-moving monster parasites and one of them is finally bitten. If you are like me always wonder what else lives in the subway tunnels.

5. Below New York (2011)
Below New York, directed by Matt Filin, is a unique and stylized look at some of New York City’s finest subway musicians, performers, and artists. Through a series of polished vignettes, the film draws the audience into the lives these local performers lead, and shows how their quest for a venue and sustenance adds a truly wonderful aesthetic to one of the greatest cities in the world.


  

For more cinematic subway action 
check out the Cinebeasts’ Subway Series 
(March 16 – April 25, 2013) 
For details click here: NY Subway Series 
You can also follow Cinebeasts on 
Twitter:@cinebeasts


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Moviefied’s Top Five New York City Movies from the ’70s

Inspired by Filmspotting, our movie-list muse, we present our first of many Moviefied Top Five Lists.  The choice for our first list was obvious; it had to come from our own backyard, a place and time—now perhaps mythological—of unrelenting creativity, expression, and guts.  A town broke, dangerous, black-and-white and obscured by sweat and steam: New York City in 1970’s, the place that made our love for film like a beginning buzz (from one too many cocktails) that turned into a continuous intoxication.  -JDW & MD
John David’s Top Five 1970s NYC
 
Broadway, high fashion, yellow cabs, prostitutes, and neurotic intellectuals who romanticize their lives in black ‘n’ white. These are some of the images that helped form my Top Five New York City movies from the 1970s.
 
1. Taxi Driver (1976) 
Like the bankrupt city on edge, ready to crack under the pressure of urban decay, sleaze and political distrustTaxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, paranoid and alienated from society, looks at himself in the mirror and asks, “Are you talking to me?” Is he having fun or is Scorsese speaking what’s on the viewer’s mind? Thirty-six years later we’re still imitating DeNiro’s line. This movie has all the grit of the ’70s gritty city. Taxi Driver plays like an indexical sign that proves to us today that the mythological gritty 1970s New York City did exist.
 
2. Manhattan (1979)
Every now and then I find myself in one of those “Wow-I-Love-This-City” moments. Woody Allen shares those same feelings in his 1979 film Manhattan.  The city is a character that we along with Allen romanticize. Annie Hall seemed like the obvious choice, but then Manhattan stepped up, as if to say, “Really? Let’s get serious, I have New York City shot in black-and-white, widescreen Panavision aspect ratio (2.35:1) with a nine-minute montage of New York City set to George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue!” Yes, OK, Manhattan, you win: all that and that iconic 4 A.M. shot in front of the Queensborough Bridge secure Manhattan on my list.
 
3. All That Jazz (1979)
Fosse submerges his autobiographical self into the character of Joe Gideon, a hyper-sexed, director/choreographer who pops Dexedrine, screws sexy dancers, neglects his loved ones, chain smokes (even in the shower) and works himself to a perfectly choreographed death. It’s the ’70s: the Me decade, cynical and all about Fosse. The opening audition scene set to George Benson’s “On Broadway” captures the desire, joy and disappointment every dancer feels who wants to be on Broadway.
 
4. Klute (1971)
New York City as it enters a decade on the brink of a meltdown. Jane Fonda plays a call girl who is complex, vulnerable, and lacks that ever-expected heart of gold. Besides Fonda’s brilliant performance, what makes this film memorable is a shot from inside a stark, corporate office on the upper floor of a high-rise. Through floor-to-ceiling windows, we see the two towers of the World Trade Center under construction. A financially powerful man sits at his desk, diminished against the multiple cranes high in the air, constructing the tallest buildings in the world. The image takes on new meaning when one realizes that the mass of construction outside the window will someday fall to a heap of destruction that will affect us all.
 
1970s disco-fashion juxtaposed against ’70s New York City grit. Ultra glamorous Fay Dunaway is Laura Mars, a fashion photographer who wields a Nikon camera to photograph sexy models in stylized violent murder settings: Columbus Circle ablaze with overturned cars on fire as glossy girls wearing lingerie and fur coats pull each other’s hair. The violence is thrust right back at Laura when a serial killer turns her photos into real murders.  The character of Laura doubles as the camera when she witnesses the murders through the killer’s eyes, while they are happening, through her own eyes.  The film’s director, Irvin Kershner, turns the movie’s view of violence on the audience: are we looking at the eyes or are the eyes looking at us?
Myrna’s Top Five 1970’s NYC
 
NYC as it was in the ’70s. Sex, drugs, street gangs, disco divas, politicians, the homeless, celebrities, musicians, hookers, and some major attitude. So many great films to choose from; it is almost impossible to leave any of them off this list. I went with my gut, what I liked: candy over substance most times. I took a deep breath, wrote down five titles and never looked back.
 
1. The Prisoner of Second Avenue  (1974)

“Respect My Ass!”  screams Mel, and I do. 
Neil Simon’s slice of New York city life—once again like in The Out of Towners, not a very nice place—in Prisoner of Second Avenue is rich in its mundane everyday quality, shrouded in genuine humor delivered brilliantly by the cast. The pounding New York City heat wave is so palpable it is a character in the film. The Prisoner of Second Avenue shows us witty New Yorkers on the verge of, and breaking down in, their urban habitat, pacing back and forth, drowning in the ever—relentless noise—wrapped in a high rise box.
 

2. The French Connection (1971)


“Doyle fights dirty and he plays rough, but that’s ok because Doyle is a good cop” —growls the trailer.  Let’s be honest: New York looks better in grit than any other city, and The French Connection’s grimy realism and downbeat ending are refreshing. Popeye Doyle—not your classic hero—violent, racist and mean-spirited. His dedication to his job, just short of dangerous obsession—a New Yorker! The film’s high point, a high-speed car chase with Doyle tailing an elevated train, was one of the most exciting screen moments of its day. The French Connection gives me the visceral charge that keeps me addicted to New York.
 

3. Shaft (1971) 


 I can not ignore the blaxploitation genre when talking about the New York of the 1970s. Shaft full of mood, attitude and fashion. Brought the world—the Harlem-dude look of feather-hat, platform boots and silver-top cane—what delicious eye candy! The theme song also unforgettable . Shaft took us all over the city; he lived in the Village, worked in Times Square and cruised up and down 125th Street.  Can you dig it? 

 
4. Saturday Night Fever  (1977)
John Travolta strutting down the streets of Brooklyn to his dead end job changed the world as we knew it. No one ever walked down the street the same way again. He escapes to the local disco, where he is/was King and dreams for a better life in Manhattan. Don’t we all? Fever is dripping with a  gritty sense of the ’70s economic malaise that plagued New York. Dance numbers, the Bee Gees soundtrack and Travolta’s white-suited presence all set in the city of dreams. “They had me at hello”
 
5. All That Jazz  (1979)

“It’s showtime!” Director and choreographer Bob Fosse takes a Felliniesque look at the life of a driven entertainer (some say his own life)—Joe Gideon. The ultimate work-and-pleasure aholic. All That Jazz shows the merciless price you pay to be an entertainer, taking us from realistic dance numbers to extravagant flights of cinematic fancy with Gideon as our guide; he meditates on his life, his women and his death. A ll That Jazz is a  fiercely personal personal film. Roy Scheider’s brilliant performance as Joe Gideon leaves me wanting for more every time.