Ask someone about the best movies of the seventies and you'll get different answers. Average yokes might say Jaws, The Godfather, Star Wars, Rocky, or even Grease. Hipper, more knowledgeable fans might suggest Chinatown, Straw Dogs, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Last Picture Show, or Taxi Driver. A horror lover is liable to cite The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien, Susperia, The Wicker Man, Halloween, or Carrie. Find a true cinephile and you might get Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Scenes From a Marriage, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie, Don't Look Now, Two-Lane Blacktop, or Eraserhead. Then you could run into an oddball like me who will rattle on about Big Wednesday, The Last Detail, Hollywood Boulevard, Pink Flamingos, Walkabout, or Sorcerer.

Rarely will you hear people bring up Paul Shrader's Blue Collar. The 70's was a decade known for realism. Blue Collar was probably too real to be successful.

Coming shortly after the acclaim of his Taxi Driver screenplay, Shrader wrote and directed Blue Collar, a harsh indictment of the world of big industry. The corporations are screwing the workers, and the unions are, if anything, even worse.

Richard Pryor is the lead in Blue Collar, and he is funny in the film. I don't think he could help it. But his role is a serious one, and he is brilliant in it. Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto star alongside Pryor.

The three actors play auto industry workers. They do their jobs but can barely keep their heads above water. When they see an opportunity to rip off the company, they jump on it. They bite off more than they can chew when they discover incriminating evidence against the union. They underestimate the ruthless power of Big Labor and its ties to organized crime.

Blue Collar is a harsh depiction of the brutal lives of industrial workers. This is a subject I am all too knowledgeable about. These people breathe noxious fumes, perform back-breaking tasks, are subjected to deafening noise, and are routinely treated like second class citizens.

The companies don't care. Unions are corrupt. Human Resources is a joke. Trying to get far enough ahead to escape with a modicum of your health seems impossible.

Blue Collar
looks at the daily struggle workers endure and the ruthless forces against them. I'm surprised they were even allowed to shoot the film in a real automotive factory, but there isn't a lot the companies won't do for money. Including murder, if the movie is accurate.

According to film legend, Blue Collar was a deeply troubled production. The three leads hated one another, which added tension to the already explosive story. Pryor allegedly pulled a gun on Shrader, who had a nervous breakdown on the set.

Blue Collar was not a big financial success, but critics loved it. It dwindled into obscurity over the years, but thankfully is now easy to watch on physical media or streaming.

There's a lot of prejudice about blue collar people today. Many assume they/we are all Trumpies who hoard an arsenal of firearms. I assure you we are not all like that.

Written by Mark Sieber

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