Daily Dirt: Scoff if you will, but ‘Dawn of the Dead’ was a magnificent example of macabre

dawn of the dead

"Dawn of the Dead" (1978) | Photo courtesy of YouTube

Daily Dirt for Saturday, June 1, 2024

There is no better way to celebrate the first day of June than a look at another great era of movies: The 1970s … Welcome to today’s three thoughts that make up Vol. 966 of The Daily Dirt.

1. The 1970s were a wonderful decade for the movies.

We’re in the midst of a countdown of the best movies from the modern golden age (1960-1999) of film, and the ’70s produced quality material. I think you’ll agree after inspecting today’s top 10. Still to come in the next two days are looks at the 1980s and 1990s.

On the with the countdown …

1970s

  • 1. “Dawn of the Dead” (1978): I know, I know, I’m going to take some heat for putting this zombie film atop the list. But you know what? Not only was it — to this day — the greatest of all films from that genre, but it possesses one of the most unexpected endings ever. After seeing it in 1978, it was weeks before I dared to go back to a mall (back when malls were actually a thing). If you’ve been fortunate enough to see this film, I’m sure you understand.
  • 2. “Jaws” (1975): I have a theory about this classic … if it were released today, it would be no big deal. Special effects have improved so much in the last 49 years that I don’t think a big fake fish would startle us all that much. Back then, however, it was terrifying. 
  • 3. “The Godfather” (1972): If you were around at this point, you probably remember all the attention this movie garnered — and rightly so. We experienced life behind the criminal curtain like never before. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan led a tremendous cast that did not disappoint. If you have time, examine the overall cast for this film. No wonder it became an instant classic.  
  • 4. “The Deer Hunter” (1978): Christopher Walken’s performance in this Vietnam War era film might have been the top individual effort of the decade. He was beyond magnificent.
  • 5. “The French Connection” (1971): To this day, the car-chase scene is the stuff of legends.
  • 6. “Dirty Harry” (1971): As I’m writing this, one thought keeps dancing through my mind: How much greater it was to see a film for the first time in a theater rather than your living room like today. Clint Eastwood’s performance was simply more impressive — and imposing — on the big screen. 
  • 7. “All the Presidents Men” (1976): I’m always a sucker for a good mystery, especially when it may involve Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.
  • 8. “National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978): For the last 46 years I’ve been waiting for “Animal House II.” Come on, Hollywood. Make it happen.
  • 9. “Mad Max” (1979): This film gave birth to the franchise that remains intact today. It’s not necessarily the best in this ongoing series, but it’s a must-see for important background material.
  • 10. “Midnight Express” (1978): I still cringe when thinking of particular scenes from the film that showcased the plight of Americans caught with drugs in a foreign country.

Next: The memorable 1980s, which might have just been the best decade of film from the four we are featuring in this series.

2. Did you know (Part 26) …

  • Musician Roy Lee Ferrell, who gained fame as a saxophone player with the Righteous brothers, is the father of comedian Will Ferrell.  
  • The late Bing Crosby was the grandfather of Denise Crosby, who starred in “Star Trek: Next Generation” and  “Pet Sematary”.
  • The late Miles Copeland, one of the first CIA agents, was the father of drummer Stewart Copeland of The Police.
  • Musician John Sebastian, who sang “Welcome Back, Kotter” and was the front man for the Lovin’ Spoonful, was the godson of Vivian Vance, one of the “I Love Lucy” co-stars. 
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Jerry Lee Lewis was the cousin of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.

3. Hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman holds the record for the fastest pitch thrown in an MLB game during the Statcast Era (since 2008). Chapman, then pitching in relief for the Cincinnati Reds, threw a pitch clocked at 105.1 mph in September 2010 to Tony Gwynn Jr. of the San Diego Padres.

Want more? Chapman threw 25 pitches in that relief appearance — and all 25 registered above 100 mph.

Steve Thought O’ the Day
For those wondering, John Sebastian is now 80 years old and still performing.

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. Only Steve would put “Dawn of the Dead” at the top of a movie list from the 1970s. (forehead slap)

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