Karen Black, the legendary actress at the forefront of the 1970s “New Hollywood” movement, died Thursday from complications due to cancer. She was 74 years old. Few actors were more readily identified with the cinematic upheavals of the ‘70s, when a desperate industry tossed the keys to film school kids and idiosyncratic iconoclasts, and actors who’d have been consigned to character roles in the “Golden Age” (Hoffman, Nicholson, Spacek, Pacino, Burstyn) found themselves in starring roles. Black’s offbeat looks and gonzo acting style made her a perfect fit in the era, and you can basically sum up the period by watching her best films. Many of them aren’t available for streaming (damn you, Trilogy of Terror), but most of the major titles are, so here’s some suggestions for a weekend film festival.
The artsy/primitive filmmaking technique hasn’t aged too well (and double that for the commune sequence), but the historical importance of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s low-budget smash can’t be overstated, and the Mardi Gras LSD sequence (which Black features prominently in) retains much of its jangly intensity. Plus, y’know, you can watch Nicholson become a star. (Streaming free on Amazon Prime)