Easy Rider (1969) is the late 60s road movie tale of a search for liberty in a corrupt and conformist America, in the middle of violence, fear and bigotry. It was released in the year of the Woodstock show, and created in a year of two disastrous assassinations, the Vietnam War accrual and election of Nixon; the tone of this film is remarkably casual and unwelcoming, reflecting the failure of the idealistic 1960s (Basinger, 1994, p.34). Easy Rider was a ritualistic experience and seen by young audience in the late 60s as a reflection of their lifelike hopes of redemptive and fears of the establishment. According to Basinger (1994, p.67), Easy Rider is really minimal in terms of its creative value and plot, is both honored as a symbol of the prevalent and historical culture of the time, and the story of the modern but apocalyptic journey by two sanctimonious, drug-fuelled, anti-hero bikers eastward via the American Southwest.
Their journey to Mardi Gras in New Orleans takes them via boundless, intact landscapes, numerous cities, a hippie community, and a graveyard with hookers, but also via regions where locals are highly prejudiced and odious of their long-haired liberty and use of drugs. The title of the film refers to their rootlessness and trip to make money easily. Furthermore, it jargons for a pimp who earns his living out of the earnings of a prostitute. Nevertheless, The Loners was the original title of the film.
Wyatt and Billy, names of the main characters propose the two notable Western criminals known as Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp. Instead of making a trip westward on horses just like the frontiersmen, the two contemporary cowboys travel eastward from Los Angeles- the culmination of the ancient border- on an ornamented Harley-Davidson choppers on a heroic trip into the anonymous for the American dream (Cook, 2000, p.60).
Importance of the Film
Even though the 1970s started with Hollywood facing a financial and artistic despair, the decade became a creative high point in the US film industry. Restrictions on adult content and sexuality, violence, and language loosened up, and these features became highly extensive. Cook (2000, p.77) asserts that the hippie movement, the civil rights movement, evolving gender roles, free love, drug use, and the development of rock and roll certainly had an effect. Furthermore, Hollywood was transformed and reborn with the previous failure of the studio system, and the jobs of numerous new and experimental film-makers in the course of a Hollywood New Wave.
The counter-culture of the time had prejudiced Hollywood to be abler, to undertake more risks and to experiment with alternate, young film makers, as old Hollywood specialists and traditional moguls deceased and a new generation of film makers emerged. A number of the movie-makers and audiences of the 1960s had viewed a sight of new probabilities, new story-telling methods and more expressive artistic choices, by the influences of various European makers, and by watching these astonishment hits in the past decade (Corrigan et al., 2011, p.56).
Directors and young viewers, who declined to compromise with middling film offerings, supported widening the borders and conservative principles of film even more in modern days. The 1970s decade was famous for films with memorable and creative subject matter that reflected the questioning spirit and certainty of the times even though the 50s and 60s were popular for wide-screen epics on CinemaScopic silver screens (Corrigan et al., 2011, p.88).
Motion picture art appeared to curl at the same period that the conquest in the Vietnam War, Fall of President Nixon, augmenting drug use, the Kent State Massacre, an increasing energy crisis, the Watergate Scandal, and the Munich Olympics shoot-out illustrated marvelous disillusion, an interrogative politicized spirit among the public and absence of faith in institutions- a remark upon the insanity of war and the dark side of the American Dream. The tumultuous times, lack of US reliability, hints of intrigue paranoia like in Alan J. Pakula’s post-Watergate film The Parallax View (1974) with Warren Beatty as a muckraking detective of the death of a senator, and the discontent toward the government (Thomson, 2004, p.66). The Strawberry Statement (1970) originated from James S. Kunen’s journal and popular account of the 1968 student strike at Columbia and subjugated for its countercultural message by MGM, reverberated support of student campus protests. Even Jaws (1975) of Spielberg could be understood as an allegory for the Watergate conspiracy.
Social activism of 1960s usually turned into an inner narcissism, and yet this indeterminate era led to emergence of some of the finest, boldest, and most commercially-successful films ever made like the prompt Oscar-winning hit The Godfather (1972) by an almost untested director called William Friedkin’s horror classic The Exorcist (1973).
According to Thomson (2004, p.88), the 1970s also laid equally unforgettable cult films, as varied Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and the idiosyncratic Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) of Monte Hellman. The raw, persistent and inflexible The Panic in Needle Park (1971) of Jerry Schatzberg and 20th Century Fox unambiguously depicted heroin drug use among addicts in New York City, with Al Pacino in his first main acting part as a drug pusher and section of heroin-doomed couple. First American film Taking Off (1971) by Czechoslovakian film-maker Milos Forman ridiculed insightfully the adult bourgeois and its supposed generation gap from the young generation (Thomson, 2004, p.88). There were also periods when anticipated hits turned to calamities; nevertheless, those kinds of musical imaginary remake Lost Horizon (1973).
Rise to the American Independent Film Movement of the 1970s and How That Independent Movement Reflected the Culture of 1970s America
Unlike currently, during the 1970s, the American film industry saw a demand for films that talked about the reformist values of the age group that that had rose in the late 60s. The downfall of the Hollywood studio system in the 1960s was not only the outcome of a recession and overproduction but also due to the evolving social atmosphere in the US that had ascended from cultural concerns. Participation of US in the Vietnam War, the threat of nuclear destruction, famous music, political dishonesty, race and gender strains, and drugs all facilitated the fast evolving national identity. Consequently, the non-conformist, young counterculture that had arisen out of the 60s, banned conservatism in almost all features of American tradition, including prevalent cinema (Biskind, 1999, p.388). The moral stories observed in films of traditional Hollywood no longer talked to the new generation of free-spirited youths. Radical films became highly precise symbols of the latest cultural standards of American teenagers, and those types of films showed to be fruitful amongst them and in theaters. With American traditional anxieties spreading into the 70s, a demand started to develop for additional films, which confronted social institutional standards, which could not be attained by rigid Hollywood studio films, and hence, the age of alternate/independent cinema in famous culture was initiated (Biskind, 1999, p.423).
Teenage filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, who had arisen from the counterculture of the 1960s, and were under the influence of conforming European cinema movements and auteurs who confronted the Hollywood domination of film and narrative, began to be modified by Hollywood studios to make cinemas that addressed the profound American counterculture viewers (Biskind, 1999, p.427). Nonetheless, the new function of nearly all Hollywood studios in postclassical prevalent cinema was restricted to supply and/or funding, as studios became the brokers between the developers and the audience, leaving most creative power to the filmmakers themselves (Hill & British Film Institute, 1996, p.40). Besides, since quite a number of these films can be produced with comparatively minor budgets, the threat feature became very squat for investors. This gave room for a window of chance for experimentation and examination in typical film, which led to an age of cognizant shooting, which has hitherto to be viewed again in prevalent cinema.
“Martin Scorsese, who was one of the indie tycoon camp of eccentric filmmakers of Roger Corman in the course of the 70s created films that were concerned with concepts of working class Americans, the American household lively, city culture, faith, and maleness as viewed in film like Taxi Driver (1976)” (Lev, 2007, p19). What was symbolic in regard to the cinemas of early career of Scorsese was that conventional Hollywood treaties of a perfect film had sat back to grittiness, wobbly handheld cameras, untargeted shots, attractive plots, and multi-dimensional actors. Films in the course of this age were not more concerned with conservative aesthetics or cinematic show but highly with content.
The alternate cinemas, which contained popular cinema in the first semi the 1970s, targeted at expanding the borders of conservative genre prospects. Early cinemas of Scorsese were not solely gangster or mystery films in the conservative Hollywood sense of genre grouping, but were the outcome of numerous and unclassified genres fused together. The cinemas of this age, cared little about conforming to particular audience or genre expectations, but as an alternative, were grounded in authentic and unromantic representations that illustrated more precisely the discrepancies of daily life and individuals (Lev, 2007, p22). This led to a highly established cinema that confronted matters of the time period honestly, as opposed to the incredible film of traditional Hollywood.
Characters such as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver of Scorsese became cultural icons that demonstrated the American social atmosphere in the course the 70s (Hill & British Film Institute, 1996, p. 44). Mental unsteadiness of Travis in Taxi Driver is insightful of the bipolar-ness of New York City during that era. The city, an emblem of American culture is grimy with dishonesty, consumed by evils and sin that Travis expects to remedy via acts of vigilantism. According to McDonagh (2004, p.67), “all the faunae including whores, skunk cats, buggers, queens, pixies, dopers, junkies, gruesome, venal, among others come out during the night. One day, an actual rain will come and shower all this fraud off the roads.” Travis does not choose sides between institutions and the individuals; to Travis, it is not only the organizations that are immoral but the entire society, including the individuals; everybody and everything that is a produce of the social concept (McDonagh 2004, p.87).
The search for blockbuster
The supposed rebirth of Hollywood was created upon perfecting some of the cultural film genres of fruitful past of Hollywood with larger block-buster scopes. Oftentimes, studios would finance heavily in a few bankrolled cinemas alone with an expectation that one or two would thrive lucratively (Basinger, 1994, p.188). The once-powerful MGM Studios sold off quite a number of its properties in the 1970s, abandoned the cinema making commerce, and diversified into other sections especially casinos and hotels.
According to Basinger (1994, p.199), a lot of attention was paid to box-office receipts and the manufacturing of action-and-teenage-oriented epic cinemas with stunning special impacts. However, it was becoming progressively harder to foretell what will sell or become a success. Economic crisis of Hollywood in in the 50s and 60s, particularly in the course of war against the trap of television, were eased to some extent with the presence of summer epic films or event movies sold to mass viewers in the 70s, particularly after the overwhelming success of two persuasive films: Jaws (1975) by Steven and Star Wars (1977) by George (Cook, 2000, p.198).
The budget for Jaws became the uppermost grossing movie in history until Star Wars even though Jaws grew from $4 million to $9 million in the course of production. Both Star Wars and Jaws were the earliest cinemas to get over $100 million in payments. In 1971, the normal price of a film ticket was $1.65 and approximately $2.5 in first-run theatres by 1978 (Cook, 2000, p.200). Second-run movie theatres may possibly charge less and usually reduced their admission fee to $1.00. By 1978, the average film budget was approximately 5 million, augmenting vividly to $11 million by 1980 because of inflation and augmenting prices. Thus, production of Hollywood movies reduced quickly in the late 1970s. For instance, down to 354 produced in 1978 in contrast the total of 560 produced previous year.
New markets for Hollywood’s products
The presence of auxiliary markets for the products of Hollywood emerged in the course of this decade:
- Cable TV- Home Box Office (HBO) – the first pay/premium TV channel- was established in 1972. HBO illustrated in 1975 the prominence of its programming became the first in TV industry to apply satellites for common broadcast of programming with its Thrilla in Manila, boxing match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.
- The industry decided to shift main film openings from mid-week to Fridays in 1973 so as to maximize profits from weekend viewers.
- Pay cable TV was capable of permitting blasphemy and gender beyond what would be provide on commercial network TV, first comedy special of disgraceful comedian George Carlin was broadcasted on HBO as On Location: George Carlin at USC (1977) with warning disclaimers regarding the use of powerful language. It was the first on numerous HBO comedy performance broadcasts (Cook, 2000, p.222).
- Multi-plex theaters: the propagation of multi-screen cable theaters in suburban regions, substituting big film palaces, implied that more films could be illustrated to minor viewers, the largest Cineplex of the world- with 18 theaters- established in Toronto in 1979.
- Promotional/celebrity magazines- People Magazine, first published as weekly magazine in March of 1974- with Mia Farrow on its first cover- after Life Magazine obsolete its weekly publications in 1972, took over the function of personality watching and promotion of movie for the industry.
- Hollywood understood that it could upsurge its profits by publicizing its new productions on TV shown first to be fruitful with the mass television marketing campaign- of $700,000- for Jaws (1975)- the movie was also reserved into nearly 500 theatres for its starting weekend- a record.
- Gone with the Wind (1939)- first broadcasted on network television in 1976 and drew an enormous viewer over two nights- regarding 34 million individuals in the biggest ever film viewers to watch a feature movie on the TV.
As prices dropped; VHS video players, laser disc players, and the production of movies on videocassette tapes and discs multiplied, developing a new industry and adding considerable revenue and profits for the film studios. One film-associated industry, which side-benefited from the growth of the VCR was the pornography industry, no longer would adult-film audiences have to visit dingy X-rated movie theaters to see porn movies, and this led to sky-rocketing proceeds from the rental and sales of X-rated VCR videotapes (Corrigan et al., 2011, p.100). Another side outcome was that independent film-makers and manufacturers could now market their movies more efficiently by supplying tapes and discs watching. However, all of these variations had a down-side as well; theater presence would start to radically decline in the next decade because of the invasion of home video.
In the film industry, we are at interesting time. Going on board on approximately 40 years since the onset of the blockbuster syndrome, viewers are still blitzed with infinite superhero, horror, action/adventure, buddy, thriller, and idealistic comedy movies that have flooded films theaters across the country, and now the globe (Corrigan et al., 2011, p.105). This has led to films, which are always stale, missing in tale quality, and detached from society, and which state the degree to which Hollywood studios have subjugated blockbuster so as to turn proceeds as fast as possible. However, the luckless thing is that quite a number of these movies are not turning on their investments that reflect eventually the philosophy behind Hollywood blockbuster cinematography that proposes that seven out of every 10 films lose money, two out of 10 even break, and one will be a huge success.
A film such as John Carter (2012) by Disney, marketed significantly a sci-fi enchanted that was anticipated to be an enormous Hollywood epic this spring, premiered to theatres to feeble welcome and has not even break even after running five weeks in theatres. It is foretold that the movie will lose $200 million. This has led to a question on whether this is a reflection of the developing dissatisfaction of viewers with Hollywood blockbusters style movies. After all, viewers have been provided with the similar five or so movies annually for about four 40 years now.
Maybe the solution will be taking the marketing dollars of the seven out of 10 collapsed blockbuster movies released annually and finance them into the marketing crusades of independent movies, which have observed success in the film centenary circuit. Unluckily, the response is not modest, because currently, not more than 1% of independent movies, which are selected in movie festivities, get supply deals, and the ones that are acknowledged are not as a result of their excellent plots or characters although due to their marketability (Latham, 2012).
Marginalized market for alternative movies is drying up as well even though it is in existence. With the development of subdivision studios by main Hollywood corporations like Fox Searchlight or Sony Picture Classics that provide for the release of movies, which feed the segmented indie-alternative market, which has described a sovereign movie as a sovereign movie. Free from Hollywood studio effect is no longer in existence. These latest movies released by sectors of Hollywood corporations merely pose as sovereign movies whereas still sporting their bankable semi-eccentric and a-list plots. In the course of late 1980s and 1990s, a brilliant light of expectation was observed with the presence of sovereign suppliers (Latham, 2012). Nevertheless, currently, the Hollywood corporations have swallowed up a number of those supplier firms as witnessed with Miramax, Good Machine, and United Artists.
In general, Easy Rider had significant impact in the film industry that is being filled in US even currently. It led to freedom that we are enjoying in field industries today, not only in US, but across the world. Easy Rider is a good background for modern and future generations to use in fighting for freedom of film industry. Hence, we should fight for film industry at all cost.
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Cook, A, 2000, Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970-1979, New York: C. Scribner, 45-243.
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