Screens Armchair cinephile

That 70's feeling

What with all the talk of Steven Spielberg rediscovering his scary side, this seems an appropriate time to revisit that ultimate summer movie, Jaws. Just in case you haven't already decided to purchase this chestnut, which only grows more fun with every viewing, Universal has released a "30th Anniversary Edition" that bundles a little photo book with the more traditional bonus features. After being scared witless by the movie's maneater, fans should get a kick out of learning just how lame the mechanical beast actually was.

Jaws was giving people nightmares in 1976 when John Carpenter made his name with a little Rio Bravo update. Now on DVD is last year's remake of Carpenter's film, Assault on Precinct 13 (Universal). It's a movie that few expected to be so entertaining - weasely Ethan Hawke and pompous Lawrence Fishburne ought to create a charisma dead zone on screen - but the tale just chugs along, generating plenty of kicks while ironing out some of the Carpenter story's rough spots.

Memo to Hollywood: You still haven't remade every '70s genre flick. Spielberg's Duel brings to mind a couple of on-the-road thrillers that just hit DVD shelves: The Driver (20th Century Fox), a Walter Hill film in which Ryan O'Neal plays a top-dollar getaway-car man being pursued by Bruce Dern's detective. As you might guess, the focus is on adrenaline-pumping chase scenes.

Dern's old Wild Angels costar Peter Fonda pops up - with '70s icon Warren Oates - in Race with the Devil (Anchor Bay), in which the two play buddies who take their wives on an RV trip and stumble across "a Satanic orgy and brutal human sacrifice." Naturally, the bad guys take to the road - catching up to an RV is a big challenge, after all.

On a more serious note, in Night Moves (Warner Bros., available July 12) Gene Hackman plays Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe translated to the leisure-suit era. Director Arthur Penn works in some nice allusions to the gumshoe past while the plot is warming up, and then it's off to Florida for dolphin farming, a naked (and very young) Melanie Griffith, and sunken pirates' treasure.

Hackman is all over the new-release section this month, which in my book is just fine. Coming out alongside Night Moves next Tuesday is Scarecrow, a Cannes Grand Prize winner from 1973 directed by Jerry Schatzberg. Hackman plays an ex-con who teams up with Al Pacino's seafaring drifter. As the film's promotional copy puts it, they're "hard-luck drifters `who` drift permanently into our souls." At any rate, it's Hackman and Pacino.

If that equation isn't macho enough for you, how does Hackman plus Lee Marvin sound? Thought so. This manly combo takes the screen in Prime Cut, a 1972 feature directed by Michael Ritchie. (whose 1976 The Bad News Bears has - wouldja look at that?! - just been remade by Richard Linklater). Here Marvin and Hackman are mob types at odds over huge sums of money, drugs, and prostitution. Sissy Spacek, in her first credited acting job, plays a young girl caught up in the fray.

If all these chunks of vintage Americana aren't sufficient to take you back in time, Other Cinema has the answer: The '70s Dimension is "a media-archeological treasure trove" drawn from all those bits of filmed flotsam that give you a handle on a generation in a way that feature films sometimes don't. In addition to a fairly straight cut-and-paste compilation, the disc also features a "70s Remix," in which contemporary filmmakers manipulate the material to their own twisted ends.

By John DeFore