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I was 12 years old when "American Graffiti" (1973) was released, and just like with "Animal House" (1978) when I was 17, I think both movies meant more to me then than they do now - they're both, in a sense, "coming-of-age" films, and I think coming-of-age films have a greater influence if you're about to go through that period in your life: With American Graffiti, I was 5-years away, with Animal House, I was only 1-2 years away, and that's probably why I loved both movies at the time. Like with "Blackboard Jungle," I didn't realize that "Rock Around the Clock" was the opening theme song of this film - it makes a lot more sense here than there, since American Graffiti is so gentrified and set up to be a movie for upper-middle-class white people - it's almost like you're watching the pilot episode of "Happy Days" (which *also* used it as its opening theme song for awhile). Is American Graffiti the first of the "50s retro-movies" to look back upon it tenderly, as an innocent era? I can't think of any that came before this, so maybe that was the appeal to society (likewise with Happy Days). It all seems so harmless and naive - I wonder if anyone can think of any pre-1973 films that gave the early Rock-n-Roll era the same, sanitized treatment? I guess there's nothing wrong with this; it just comes across to me as a little bit sappy right now, not that sappy is bad. Ha! 45-years later, I still remember laughing at the line, "File that under 'CS' over there" when John Milner (Paul Le Mat) gets a traffic ticket. Oh my goodness! I had no idea Debralee Scott (who played Rosalie "Hotsie" Totsie in "Welcome Back Kotter") was in this movie. Not to mention the fact that she's Bob Falfa's (Harrison Ford's) date. The number of famous people in this movie is absolutely incredible, and I think that, for the most part, it was the movie which made them famous, and not vice-versa. I remember so well the line when Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) is in the car with Laurie Henderson (Cindy Williams) trying to get one more session in before going off to college - she refuses him, and he arrogantly says, "You want it, and you know it." Even at a pre-pubescent age 12, I thought to myself how ridiculous it was for *Ron Howard* to be saying that to such a pretty girl - it's funny the things you remember (and the things you don't) after nearly 45 years. By the way, the leader of "The Pharaohs" - the physically intimidating Bo Hopkins - is someone I recognized, but didn't remember from where. If you've ever seen "Midnight Express" (1978), he plays Tex, who's the one who says to Brad Davis - after Davis tries to escape - "You seem like a nice enough kid to me, Billy, but try it and I'll blow your fucking brains out." With just over thirty minutes left in the movie, I'm finally getting into American Graffiti - with "slice-of-life" movies, you have to immerse yourself into their atmosphere to enjoy them (cf: "The Last Picture Show," the impossibly beautiful Cybill Shepherd on the diving board notwithstanding). Finally, I feel like I'm watching a longer, edgier version of "Happy Days," which I enjoyed as a teenager, so I've started to feel at home with American Graffiti - but I just can't get over how young Richard Dreyfuss looks, no matter how long the movie goes on. I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie with more famous people in it than American Graffiti.
*** SPOILER ALERT *** --- Do not read past this point if you haven't seen the movie. In the scene which takes place in Jimmy Malone's (Sean Connery's) house (there's only one in the entire film), shortly before he winds up his Victrola, and the knife-man sneaks in, Amazon X-Ray says "References: 'A Clockwork Orange' (1971)," but it doesn't say how. Furthermore, a ten-minute internet search revealed absolutely no details of any reference to "A Clockwork Orange" during this scene, and I've seen A Clockwork Orange at least five times. Does anyone know what the reference is? Incidentally, this scene contains one of my all-time favorite movie lines - when Jimmy Malone looks up at Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner), and with his final bit of energy, choking on his own blood, does his best to scream out (and it's the third time in the movie he says this), "What are you prepared to do?!" I believe it was this single line that might have put Sean Connery over-the-top for winning the Best Supporting Actor Award. Shortly afterwards, at the train station, the "other" scene that everyone remembers from this film is the baby carriage rolling down the stairs backwards. This is a direct homage to the legendary "Odessa Steps" scene from "The Battleship Potemkin" (I've started the video just before it occurs - feel free to rewind and watch the entire scene). Incidentally, even though nobody has picked up on this in twelve years, this post, too, was an homage to the same scene (if you watch to the end, you'll understand why). It was also an homage to bacon; just not that kind of bacon. It was also one of the best posts I've ever written, and can be found in "DonRocks' Greatest Hits."