10 forgotten summer popcorn movies of 1977 that were not 'Star Wars'
Hollywood really wanted another 'Jaws.'
Some classic films are celebrating a 40th anniversary this year. You will find none of them on this list.
Of course, the biggest of them all is Star Wars, the blockbuster that redefined pop culture. That sci-fi spectacular dominated the summer months, as people lined up outside theaters to watch Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star.
It marked a seismic shift, as Hollywood looked to outer space, sci-fi and fantasy for ideas. George Lucas' landmark film overshadows other genre flicks that hit cineplexes in 1977. Horror fans will also fondly recall classics like Suspiria, The Hills Have Eyes and perhaps even Martin.
Of course, we forget that Smokey and the Bandit, which came out two days after Star Wars, actually pulled in more money that first weekend. The year also delivered timeless films like Annie Hall, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Saturday Night Fever. A pretty wonderful year for flicks, no? Even James Bond delivered with The Spy Who Loved Me, the best of the Roger Moore era.
Let's dig a little deeper into box office of 1977. These popcorn-munchers delivered thrills for us on summer vacation. Did you see any of these back in the day?
Steven Spielberg was just 30 in 1977, but already Hollywood was ripping him off left and right. A handful of Jaws clones hit the big screen, and then there was this killer automobile thriller, which took a lot of cues from Spielberg's wonderful TV movie Duel. A hulking, black Lincoln Continental — modified by George Barris, the man who did the 1966 Batmobile — hunts down James Brolin.
This swashbuckler had the misfortune of trying to excite audiences with sabers, one week after the world discovered lightsabers. Released overseas as The Prince and the Pauper, this throwback tried to recapture the magic of 1973's The Three Musketeers. A sprawling cast including Raquel Welch, Ernest Borgnine and Charlton Heston could not turn this into a hit.
Image: Warner Bros.
What would lazy critics compare this to? This fun B-movie took the disaster formula of flicks like Airport and moved them to an amusement park. Helen Hunt made her feature debut, alongside titans like Henry Fonda. But the biggest attraction here was vibrating seats — Rollercoaster was released in "Sensurround," which would shake your chair during the thrill-ride scenes.
Jaws broke records in 1975. Studios scrambled to copy it. Two years later, the fruit of that cloning hit theaters. Since Jaws works so well, why not adapt another book by Jaws auther Peter Benchley? And why not cast Robert Shaw, too? And why not copy the poster imagery? The blatant aping worked to some extent, as the $9 million movie raked in nearly $50 million.
Image: Columbia Pictures
The Rescuers / A Tale of Two Critters
A Disney double feature! While these two kiddie movies may not have the same clout as The Lion King and Cinderella, anyone young in the late 1970s will fondly recall them. Released together, they offered animated adventure and an adorable live-action animal quest, as a raccoon and bear became best buddies.
Speaking of Jaws, star Roy Scheider teamed with director William Friedkin, who was hot off The Exorcist and The French Connection. At the time, this qualified as a flop, though it has developed a cult following, thanks in no little part to the awesome, forward-looking music, composed by Tangerine Dream.
The poster made it look like another Smokey and the Bandit, and Richard Pryor certainly gave the impression this might be a roaring comedy, but it in fact was a rather sincere based-on-a-true-story biopic about Wendell Scott, the first African American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner. Grease would come a year later, forever burying this title.
Image: Warner Bros.
Oh yeah, another Jaws knock-off, this time starring young Charlotte Rampling. Orca made its intentions quite clear early on, as a killer whale devours a great white shark in a bloody froth. Alas, the metaphor did not carry over to the box office. Jaws ended up making about 30 times as much money.
Image: Paramount Pictures
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger
Featuring more brilliant stop-motion work by legend Ray Harryhausen, this fantastic adventure probably looked, well, ancient in the eyes of kids who had just seen Star Wars. However, the old-school thrills hold up pretty well, in that Jason and the Argonauts or Clash of the Titans way.
Image: Columbia Pictures