Stephen King understands bullies as few others before him, which is one of the reasons why his terror tales hold so much power. His first novel, Carrie — inspired by experiences in high school — taps into the fear, alienation and rage of being the constant target of abuse, and in the hands of director Brian De Palma, it became one of the greatest horror films of all time. Sissy Spacek is perfect as the terrified young woman whose burgeoning telekinesis gives her the perfect instrument of revenge, and made the character an icon for anyone who ever got stuffed into a locker or wedgied behind the bleachers. It opened today in 1976.
The original Pete’s Dragon came along at a low point for Walt Disney Pictures, with their founder ten years gone and the company searching for a creative direction. But it holds a great deal of charm in the story of another picked-on child, this time with someone much more positive in his corner. It rambles a bit, and packs a few plot threads too many into its frame, but it also finds some measure of the magic that made the House of Mouse so beloved. It opened 40 years ago today in 1977.
Guys and Dolls decided to make a musical out of the magical subject of compulsive gambling and — let’s face it — preserved some of the less savory aspects of 50s culture. But watching Marlon Brando sing “Luck Be a Lady” is all kinds of awesome, and who if not Frank Sinatra should play the definitive Nathan Detroit? The film opened 60 years ago today in 1957.
Finally, there’s Fiddler on the Roof, an ambitious and uniformly admirable adaptation of the famous stage play. Director Norman Jewison stuck to the basics — letting the marvelous songs and fine performances speak for themselves — and while it was a crime to keep Zero Mostel from the part he was born to play, Topol makes a perfectly serviceable fill-in as the Jewish dairy farmer dealing with life in a changing world. The film also won three Oscars, including the first of many for composer John Williams. It opened today in 1971.