Judge Dennis Prince is visibly upset over this documentary's assertions that his beloved 70s were host to all manner of wanton warfare, economic upheaval, and political malfeasance. What a bunch of killjoys.
Talk about sucking the fun out of the decade of shrieking streaking, dynamite discos, and super sharks—this new release of dated documentaries make the shimmering 70s look like a time of governmental gaffes, oil embargoes, and nuclear meltdowns.
Talk about nit-picky.
Truth be told, the 70s was my time, the decade that ushered me out of boyhood, through the thrills of puberty, and poising me to become a young adult. It was a good time and it was marked with good TV, good film, and good music. Hey, even the fashion was cool as my folks finally relented, granting my permission for my hair to drop down over my ears and my lengthening legs to experience the swoosh-swoosh of Super Bell Levi's. Life was good.
But while I was happily distracted with Happy Days, Jaws, KISS, and Pop Rocks, it seems some other sh*t was going down even as I marveled at the technical prowess of my Super Pong console. The Sensational 70s, a rather dry and straight-ahead series of hour-long retrospectives looks at what was really going on outside my bedroom, the sort of stuff that earned the decade the self-centered distinction of being the "Me Decade." It sounds like a catchy theme, no?
Forget the feigned fondness you see in those Vh-1 I Love the 70s retrospectives, especially since most of the regular guests were kids just like me at the time (hardly qualified to submit social commentary of the events of the day outside of what happened in the previous Saturday's episode of Goober and the Ghostchasers). This is a more sobering look back that reminds us that there was some major trouble at hand in those disco days in the decade that had to bear the brunt of a lingering war, the egregious improprieties and impudence of a Republican president, and a cultural attitude that embraced more violence and dismay in its entertainment that ever before (yes, I'm talking about the 70s, not this new millennium). Here, you'll find 10 separate installments, each which runs nearly an hour (48 minutes, to be exact), that tackle each year of the decade with a decidedly detached and even dour disposition. To wit:
"1970—Oh, what a year. Bombs are dropped in Cambodia. Four students are killed at Kent State. The Penn Central goes bankrupt."
Well, sure, but what about James Dickey's Deliverance in print, M*A*S*H on the big screen, and The Partridge Family everywhere? As you cull through this collection of 10 segments that make up the 1970s, you'll recall that everything wasn't exactly rosy and either you were too young or too stoned to realize it (I was too young, just for the record). But that's not to say that this set from MPI Home Video is a total downer because it does entertain some of the lighter aspects of the decade including mini skirts, minivans, and minicomputers. If you're looking for a total romp into pop culture, though, look for Vh-1 reruns because this series isn't inclined toward sweet nostalgic romps. The reason is certainly because this entire compilation was produced in the 70s. That's right, and you'll realize it when the first one begins to play, the opening featuring a bad piece of jazzy music, crappy bleed-over titles, and a dirty and damaged film stock on display. The stiff narration from Harvey Kirck (nah, I've never heard of him, either) gives each segment the feel of one of those science class films you watched back in the days when AV geeks pushed real 16mm projectors around the junior high campus. The image looks as if it was transferred direct from such a source print and has all the jerky editing and perpetual film grain that will have you anxious that you're about to see a dissertation on the importance of personal hygiene as you embark on the journey of your changing body.
The Sensational 70s was produced in 1979 by a Canadian production company, Hobel Leiterman Productions (and, Kirck, by the way, was an accomplished Canadian broadcaster who was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2000). Interestingly, this compilation exists as one of the very artifacts of the decade it once presumed to inspect; the Canadian flavor is just a bonus, really. You won't find the fun and frivolity of our ADD-afflicted culture that believes the 70s was a simply a time of cartoons, candy, and corduroy (here I sit, guilty as charged), and you'll rediscover—or maybe even learn—about a difficult decade where individuals decided this was a time to indulge themselves, unfortunately at all levels of the various social and political ladders. Honestly, this collection makes an interesting "time capsule" in the purest sense and actually is worthy of a viewing by those who consider themselves latter-day historians. Don't expect much in the way of video or audio quality, as the 4:3 image is just watchable and the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono does only as much as it needs to. There are no extras within the four-disc set, but with nine hours of material on board, how much more sobering material can you take?
Excuse me now while I climb back into the mental bubble that was my experience of the 70s. In my little world, they truly were sensational!
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