Category Archives: 1976

Movies released in 1976.

Review: The Message [a.k.a. Mohammad, Messenger of God]

Director: Moustapha Akkad
Year: 1976
Score: 5.5/10

If this movie is to be believed, most of Mohammad's enemies died because they used rubber swords.

If this movie is to be believed, most of Mohammad’s enemies died because they used rubber swords.

Strange combination of historical epic and religious propaganda. In a sense, the nearest comparison would be Ben-Hur; unfortunately, this is no Ben-Hur.

It tells the story of Mohammad and the birth of Islam but it’s hamstrung by its adherence to Islamic beliefs regarding depictions of Mohammad. An opening card informs the audience: “The makers of this film honour the Islamic tradition which holds that the impersonation of the Prophet offends against the spirituality of his message. Therefore, the person of Mohammad will not be shown”. Consequently we get an epic biopic missing its protagonist, instead resorting to ridiculous workarounds such as showing his camel’s head (he’s supposedly just off-screen!) and shooting some sequences from his point of view (placing his staff in frame as though it’s a weapon in a first-person shooter game!).

Other than that, the story is told in a fairly conservative, straightforward way, hammering home the view that Mohammad’s opponents were driven by greed and that his message was just totally awesome and should have been immediately taken up by everyone. There’s a lot of time spent on the efforts of the merchants and leaders of Mecca to suppress the growing movement, so much so that it’s almost two hours before we get a proper battle scene. When the battles start things do pick up a bit, but by then it’s a case of too little too late.

There are some fair performances and it held my interest all the way through (that’s three hours!); it just isn’t the kind of straight historical epic I wanted it to be. Perhaps part of the problem, and the source of the sense that it amounts to religious propaganda, is that (as explicitly stated in another opening card) its content was vetted by an Islamic university in Cairo and something called the “High Islamic Congress of the Shiat in Lebanon” (which, when googled, leads only to references to this film).

Review: Silent Movie

Director: Mel Brooks
Year: 1976
Score: 3.5/10

Video games: the butt of bad jokes since 1976.

Video games: the butt of bad jokes since 1976.

The worst Mel Brooks movie I’ve seen, this is an almost entirely unfunny parody of silent films. It’s loaded with celebrity cameos that are presented as though they’re making fun of celebrity cameos, but they don’t help. There are lots of sight gags (what else can there be, really?), none of which land. It clocks in at only 87 minutes but feels interminable. I get the feeling nobody had the heart or balls to tell Brooks this was an idea worthy of a short film (or sketch) at best, not one worth stretching out over an entire feature-length film. The one bright spot is a brief appearance by the brilliant Marcel Marceau. Avoid unless you’re a Brooks completist.

Review: Bugsy Malone

Director: Alan Parker
Year: 1976
Score: 7/10

Bugsy Malone

The visual equivalent of a knock knock joke.

Gangster musical featuring an all-child cast (led by Scott Baio and Jodie Foster) and all adult elements bowdlerised to make the movie suitable for children. The tunes are pretty catchy; I’ve been listening to the soundtrack quite a lot. It’s a unique idea for a movie, includes some great homages to classic gangster movies, and generally holds interest, but needs to be funnier. The rousing closing number is a highlight.

Review: Network

Director: Sidney Lumet
Year: 1976
Score: 7/10

Very interesting, this: a sharp satire that’s more dramatic than comedic. Ahead of its time in its critique of television. Faye Dunaway is magnetic in a challenging role. And, of course, there’s the famous line (something about hellish madness and refusing to take something..?); great to finally see it in context.

Review: Don’s Party

Director: Bruce Beresford
Year: 1976
Score: 7/10

I’m really glad I watched this. It serves as a fascinating glimpse into Australian politics – sexual and otherwise – in both the late 1960s (when the film is set) and the 1970s (when it was made). It’s also interesting as a reflection of Australian cinema at the time. Parts are quite funny and it’s always engaging as we watch the party degenerate, numerous couplings and decouplings occur, characters drop the façades they began with, and – in the background – Gorton defeats Whitlam to the disappointment of Don and many of his guests.