This week we’re highlighting the recently 50 years-old crime movies of 1973, and if you haven’t gleaned this already, it was a hell of a good year for robbery on film. Heisters, hustlers, scammers, confidence artists and thieves of all stripes were all the rage on the silver screen, so much so that some have practically been forgotten to today’s viewers. (Seriously, consider the Gene Hackman picture below.) Fortunately, you’ve got a weekend to get caught up on the action. Maybe you’re in the mood for a little robbery-implicated gun-running in the Boston area? Or a classic vengeance tale? How about a road trip? 1973 has got you covered, it all just depends on your mood.
Do you want to see Robert Duvall’s ex-con on a rampage?
(1973, dir. John Flynn)
Based on the Richard Stark/Donald Westlake novel and starring Robert Duvall as a Parker-like protagonist, this mostly-forgotten neo-noir is a fairly straight-ahead period action pick, with rhythms that will be pretty familiar to today’s viewer: a vengeance quest that requires one set piece after another, some robberies, a fairly simple universe of criminal codes and hidden crook subcultures. But as ever with Stark material, there’s something stripped-down and nihilistically satisfying about the story’s arc and driving rhythms.
Where to stream: Tubi
Let’s be honest, you want to see Robert Mitchum in anything…
The Friends of Eddie Coyle
(1973, dir. Peter Yates)
It’s surprising now to think that The Friends of Eddie Coyle was such a box office flop it didn’t even make back a fairly modest $3m budget at the combined box office, but that’s what happened with this Robert Mitchum-led story of a small-time Boston hood trying to land one last bag before going away. But as the decades have passed, the reputation of this one has launched into at least semi-iconic status, thanks mostly to the performance by Mitchum, who manages the perfect mix of cool and sad-sack, and to the period-drenched Massachusetts location shoots. The intricacies of the gun-running business give this one no glamor: it’s all just the workaday hustles and ingrained prejudices of the greater Boston area’s local crooks and corrupt cops.
Where to stream: Pluto TV
Are you in the mood for some Depression-era fun?
(1973, dir. George Roy Hill)
How can you go wrong watching The Sting? Winner of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for George Roy Hill, it was the movie phenomenon of the year, memorializing the Redford and Newman partnership for all time, popularizing about a hundred old-timey scam phrases, and pretty much inventing the modern form of the grifter movie. Few movies have ever had more style, more panache, and it all holds up on the hundredth viewing, so do yourself a favor this weekend, turn on The Sting, and let that tinny old ragtime wash over you.
Where to stream: Netflix
How about some Depression-era recently orphaned fun?
(1973, dir. Peter Bogdanovich)
What a year 1973 was for Depression-era con games in the movies. About eight months before The Sting became a box office juggernaut, Paper Moon, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring real-life father and daughter duo Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, was cleaning up with audiences and teaching would-be sharps how to take down a mark. There’s a bit more pathos to this one, and not just because of the parent-by-proxy storyline: we end up spending a little less time on the intricacies of the cons and a little bit more on the sorrows of the lives crushed by poverty and circumstance. Still, the result is a firecracker of a movie, one that’s just in much in the lore of American cinema and is the inspiration behind my favorite father and daughter matching Halloween costume.
Where to stream: Various rental outfits
Or how about this Hackman & Pacino movie you’ve never heard of?
(1973, dir. Jerry Schatzberg)
This is how stacked 1973 was with scammer movies: Gene Hackman and Al Pacino starred as a hard-living, hard-hustling vagabond duo in and out of jail and trying to put together enough scratch to get back to Pittsburgh to run a car wash…and probably you’ve never even heard of this picture, right? It took home some prestigious prizes on the festival circuit (especially at Cannes) and garnered a somewhat devoted following, but over the years, it’s mostly just disappeared from the pop culture. It was a worthy follow-up to Schatzberg’s The Panic in Needle Park, and it shows Pacino in a sad-clown light we don’t get to see that often (at least not from this period), and if you’re able track it down, it’s well worth your time, so long as you’re prepared for a series of gut punches.
Where to stream: Various rental outfits