Cinematic Time Capsules

All art reflects the times that its creation. This is true of poems, paintings, sculptures, prose, and movies. As a fan of film it is always interesting to me how many decades have a distinct tone and feel to them reflecting to social mood and issues of their periods.

Recently my sweetie-wife and I watched three films from a few decades ago and the time capsule effect struck me fairly strong. The movies in questions were The Italian Job, Get Carter, and The Heroin Busters. All three captured a distinct mood from their societies and culture, and though all were produced and filmed outside of the United States they reflected the changing tastes and expectations of the American audience for whom that had been intended.

The Italian Job is a comedy/heist movie. Produced during the rule of the Production Code it is a foregone conclusion that film’s protagonists cannot get away with the money. Hailing from the mid 60s the movie reflects both a traditional and non-traditional viewpoint. Our heroes are thieves and criminals, their lifestyle are not presented as self-destructive this is most non-traditional when compared to the noir of the 40s and 50s or the gangster films of the 30s. Yet the target of the heist ends up being Red China making their illegal actions a part of the larger Capitalism vs Communism struggle, and you can hardly get more mainstream than that.

Get Carter produced during the early 70s, just a few short years later, is a completely different animal. Jack Carter, a London hoodlum, has returned to his detested home in the north of England to find out who killed his brother and why. Carter is often called a bastard and it’s very hard to argues with that label. he is ruthless and cruel. Every person associated with the murder of his brother he kills, often in a cold blooded fashion that further his hunt for the next target. Like many films of the 70s, Get Carter, presents a flawed main character whose victory is pyric and hollow.

The Heroin Busters is an Italian exploitation movie about undercover police infiltrating and destroying a heroin smuggling ring. Cynical and violent the movie reflects that the low budget cinema had moved to a tone and style meant to reflect a ‘street’ sensibility. With violence and nudity more gratuitous that Game of Thrones, this movie captures the low entertainment of the grindhouses, a venue and style of films not found only in history and nostalgia.