Villainy isn't just found in an evil plot, a straight razor, or a hockey mask. Sometimes it's a crippling state of mind and place that sucks the soul out of its heroes and heroines. It can be Purgatory, it can be hell, it can be a mental asylum, or it can be a bustling metropolis. So, I'd like to salute 1970s New York as being one of the most vicious, ruthless villains to ever wreck havoc on the silver screen.

By now you're regarding me with skepticism, outright derision, or a need to see Pinhead or Jigsaw saluted for the millionth time on a Halloween list. But think about the lurking menace behind Serpico, Taxi Driver, Fort Apache the Bronx, Cruising, Dog Day Afternoon, Klute, Mean Streets, Death Wish and dozens more. (Every once and awhile Hollywood mixed it up and set something in San Fransisco. But it always felt like a New York stand-in, didn't it?) The city's sickly decay spawned Watchmen. Without the drugs, spiraling crime rate, police corruption, and riots you wouldn't have Travis Bickle or Rorschach, who are rejected, broken, and made by what they witness on the city streets. In 1976, you wouldn't have had a charming dramedy called New York, I Love You. It probably would have been called New York:You'll Die Violently. The class and romance seen An Affair to Remember wouldn't come back until Disney dressed it up again.

Movies just haven't been the same without the lurking menace of New York. While a lot of thrillers have neatly relocated to Boston, Chicago, or Philadelphia, none of them give off the simmering terror of early Scorsese or feature the human zoo ofFort Apache the Bronx. There's no tinderbox waiting to explode. The soul sucking climates and ugly sides of humanity can now be found where the New York denizens fled: The suburbs.

Hop below the jump for a little Taxi Driver. Try throwing this into your October routine (if you don't own it, Crackle and Netflix Instant have it up and running right now) and see if it doesn't give you the same kind of nightmares.
categories Cinematical