It’s come to my attention, via a reader comment, that the #1 lists I’ve been using are not accurate.

The lists that Box Office Boffo is based on come from Wikipedia. I have spent several hours studying the Variety archives on microfiche, and I’ve determined that my reader is correct. The “true” lists, if one chooses to view Variety that way, are quite different, approximately 50 percent different, for the period I’ve already covered (1970-1974). Of the 88 movies I’ve reviewed, about half don’t appear in the Variety lists at all, and there’s a group of similar size that do appear in the Variety lists that I have never reviewed. In some sense that leaves Boffo as less comprehensive than I’d like it to be, so I’m acting to fix that problem.

The Variety findings are real interesting. I’ve decided that I’d prefer to “reboot” the site by reviewing the movies starting over from 1970. When I encounter a movie I’ve already reviewed, the existing review will get slotted in at the appropriate place. Reviews that would not have reason to appear in the new listing will remain on the website in a different location. (I’m proud of those reviews, and I don’t want them to disappear.) All of the subsidiary pages tracking chronological order, tags, and so forth will have to be built from scratch.

Please bear with me in the next few weeks as I effectively zero out the website so that I can start the process from 0001 again. I should be posting new reviews before too long.

The Variety numbers are based on total weekly grosses. The movie that made the most money in a given week is the #1 movie for that week, with no adjustments. I’ll have more to say about the differences between the two lists (Wikipedia and Variety) in the weeks to come.

The weekly tables in Variety make for very interesting reading. The most notable result is how different the distribution patterns are to the way the studios do it now. In other words, movies frequently reached #1 much later than the release date, unlike today. In some cases movies did not hit #1 until several months after their release date.

Furthermore, the new list is a bit more friendly to mass-market blockbusters, genre movies, and crowd-pleasing entertainments. It’s a scruffier group, and in many ways a more interesting group. I like the new list. It feels less like what the Upper East Side was watching, and more like what America was watching.

Thank you for paying attention. I’ll be back soon with further announcements and reviews. In the meantime, if you see pages vanishing from the site or whatnot, it’s all just part of retooling things so that I can post a new 0001.

(0088X) Herbie Rides Again

Herbie Rides AgainJune 9, 1974 | 2 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? A cute comedy about a sentient VW bug.

What did I get? With a mise-en-scène not far removed from the campy Batman movie of eight years prior, Herbie Rides Again probably felt like a throwback the day it opened. The second movie in the sort-of-franchise kicked off by 1968’s The Love Bug, it’s easy to take but not very memorable. A precursor to Pixar’s Cars movies, Herbie Rides Again has something of that series’ essential ordinariness.
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(0087X) Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

Thunderbolt and LightfootMay 26, 1974 | 2 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? A diverting heist movie or western? Not much info going in here.

What did I get? The underappreciated Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a 1970s movie in the truest sense thanks to its deep trust in the quirks of character to moor its plot. Riskily, it feels like a different movie every fifteen minutes, calling to mind, at least in this respect, Jonathan Demme’s 1986 masterpiece Something Wild. Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate would famously bring the director-centric (some would say self-indulgent) 1970s cinema crashing to a close, but in his first feature there’s much to admire.
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(0086X) Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

Dirty Mary, Crazy LarryMay 19, 1974 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? A crazy road trip adventure!

What did I get? Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is a grubby countercultural classic for greasemonkeys, it seems, but don’t let that exalted description fool you: engineered for the bad-trip post-Manson generation, it’s now scarcely intelligible to anyone else. Offering more screeching tires than a half-season of The Dukes of Hazzard, the movie founders on the levels of plot, characterization, and theme. Some onlookers extol the chemistry between the eponymous duo, but to me it adds up to a bunch of aimless attitudinizing.
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(0085X) The Lords of Flatbush

The Lords of FlatbushMay 4, 1974 | 2 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? Something about Brooklyn thugs, tone to be determined.

What did I get? The Lords of Flatbush artlessly combines the raw ethos of 1970s American filmmaking and the budding interest in 1950s America that had already manifested in Sha Na Na and American Graffiti and would soon spawn Grease and the popular TV show Happy Days. Even as it cribs many of the strategies of American Graffiti — particularly the soundtrack — the under-emotive Lords sorely lacks Lucas’s directorial verve.
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(0084X) The Conversation

The ConversationApril 14, 1974 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? An exceptional, probing character study, rather typical of its time.

What did I get? No Hollywood feature in American history ever wore its seriousness of intent on its sleeve as ostentatiously as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. Good for us that Coppola’s skills at that moment were developed enough to deliver on his promises — and then some. The quality of The Conversation isn’t really up for debate — one surmises that it may have dated, à la Antonioni’s Blow Up, but it’s far too thoroughgoingly conceived and brilliantly executed for that.
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(0083X) The Sugarland Express

The Sugarland ExpressApril 7, 1974 | 2 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? A tense, intelligent study of extreme motherhood.

What did I get? Better than expected and yet not as good as it seems, The Sugarland Express provides early evidence of Steven Spielberg’s otherworldly filmmaking skills while evincing a prosaic, boilerplate maturity that, for most of his career, Spielberg instinctively shunned. If Sugarland bafflingly fails to resonate as it ought, it may be because Spielberg’s impersonation of a cooler, more measured director was an iffy fit all along.
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(0082X) The Great Gatsby

The Great GatsbyMarch 31, 1974 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? A droopy adaptation of the Fitzgerald masterpiece.

What did I get? Jack Clayton’s version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel evinces much earnest endeavor by a great many talented and well-meaning people, but it’s foredoomed by its unaccountably guileless approach. Robert Evans hit on the idea of adapting Gatsby as a means of flattering his then-wife Ali MacGraw and, indirectly, of celebrating the new class of nouveaux riches residing in Malibu — didn’t anyone notice the irony? Pitched at an erudite audience that would probably prefer not to countenance it in the first place, the movie’s main achievement is to remind us how fantastic the book is — and how elusive.
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(0081X) Blazing Saddles

Blazing SaddlesFebruary 17, 1974 | 7 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? Yes

What did I expect? An utterly hilarious and tasteless western parody.

What did I get? Rude, sunny, and not what you’d call ironic, Blazing Saddles ripples with a restless comedic energy that frequently feels something close to musical (it’s also got a lot of good music in it). Arguably the most enjoyable movie of the entire Boffo project, it’s seldom a jot less than fully realized and blazingly memorable. Gleefully, scurrilously anachronistic, Blazing Saddles is properly scattershot and quite sedate in its hilarity. The secret to its hold on us, however, is elusive, as all really great movies must somehow be.
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(0080X) The Exorcist

The ExorcistJanuary 6, 1974 | 6 weeks at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? An unpleasant, terrifying movie.

What did I get? The strategies employed in The Exorcist are probably unique in Hollywood history — and uniquely successful. Tasked with adapting William Peter Blatty’s relatively sincere (I’m told) novel into the upper middlebrow wigout of the century, William Friedkin left no strategy unconsidered; this constitutes both the movie’s primary strength and its primary weakness. After one viewing, The Exorcist seemed a classic; after three, a disgrace. The truth lies somewhere in between.
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