Much has been made of the summer of 1977. Whole movies have been centered around it, notably Spike Lee’s ambitious-if-flawed “Summer of Sam” and, to an extent, the excellent Vh1 documentary “NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell” (well worth your time). There was “White Flight,” the blackout, urban decay and ol’ David "Son of Sam” Berkowitz was running around shooting people in parked cars. Culturally, disco, punk rock and hip-hop were all gestating throughout the grittier parts of the city. It was, by most accounts, an equally scary and exciting time.
Personally speaking, I can’t say I was particularly touched by the tumult, but I certainly remember hearing all about Son of Sam and the Blackout (although I was out on Long Island during that particular spell). I was ten years old, besotted with comic books, KISS and “Star Wars” and invariably little else.
Why am I re-exhuming all this? Well, yesterday, the Kinolibrary Archive Film collection published yet another one of those compilations of NYC stock footage. This particular one below is titled “Summer in New York City 1977,” purportedly capturing a taste of Manhattan in those balmy couple of months.
Apart from some seemingly obligatory and inevitable scenes of graffiti-slathered subway trains, however, the Summer of 1977 captured in these silent four minutes don’t really exude an essence of chaos, menace or any sort of badlands-variety lawlessness,….apart from maybe the mustachioed yacht-rocker above who seems intent on not getting out of the camera man’s way at 02:05 into proceedings.
Take a brief step back in time.