Two Movies, Two Sides Of '70s

linda blair in the exorcist
This week, CBS News Sunday Morning's John Leonard reviews Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous and Warner Bros. re-release of The Exorcist.
When the alarm rang to end the '50s snooze, it sounded to me like Allan Ginsberg instead of Elvis.

Wrong again.

Rock 'n' roll changed the world. Whether for better or worse, it is what today's Culture Wars are all about.

But before it went punk, metal and grunge, rock was a joyous vibe. And that's the way movie director Cameron Crowe wants to remember it, back in the summer of 1973, when he was a 15-year-old music journalist on the road with bands like the Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin.

Almost Famous is Crowe's love letter to his own youth, as embodied in Patrick Fugit…

…who gets his first assignment from the great rock critic himself, Lester Bangs, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman

…who is warned by his wonderful college-professor mother, played by Frances McDormand

…who is wowed by his first Golden Girl, Kate Hudson as Penny Lane

…who is hired by Rolling Stone to write about Billy Crudup and a band called Stillwater

…and who will have to decide where he belongs.

The Leonard File
Read past reviews by John Leonard.
There's a dark side to Almost Famous, as there is to everything. But Kate Hudson steals the movie's heart and mine.

And that is exactly what's missing from another 1973 production, The Exorcist, released this week with a scene we weren't allowed to see the first time.

You will recall the demonic possession of Linda Blair, about which her divorced, agnostic movie-star mother, Ellen Burstyn, could do nothing. There's no feeling at all in The Exorcist, for the abused child, the hysterical mother, the dead priests, or the human condition.

It is advertised as the scariest movie ever made. Rather, it may be the ugliest: Gothic horror, cheap thrills, Catholic porn, dirty words, and green gurgle. At the screening I went to, everybody laughed all the way through, a contagious heartlessness.

I had to go home and listen to rock to gentle my mind.