Category Archives: 80’s Movies

Night Games (1980)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sex with masked stranger.

It’s not often that I can say this, but I personally know the man, Anton Diether, that’s credited with writing the screenplay (and story idea) for this film. He’s a member of the Austin Screenwriter’s group that I also attend. He’s harshly critical of everyone else’s screenplays, so I was intrigued to see something that he had written in order to ascertain if his stuff was any better. To give him credit I’ve asked him about this film many months back before I had seen it. He stated that director Roger Vadim had ‘ruined it’ and that he had a big fight with him on opening night when he realized how much Vadim had changed the original story. For his sake I hope he’s telling the truth because this thing is nothing I’d ever want my name to be attached to.

This was also intended at being a star making vehicle for Cindy Pickett, who’s excellent and seen quite a bit in the nude. Vadim was famous for directing films that turned his lady stars into international sex symbols like Bridgitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, and Jane Fonda as well as dating them and even marrying two of them. While Pickett did date Vadim as the film was being shot they quickly broke-up once it was over and it failed to make her a superstar like the other three, but much of that can be blamed on the lame script more than anything.

The story centers on Valerie (Cindy Pickett) who’s married to Hollywood producer Jason (Barry Primus). While their marriage may seem perfect to an outsider it’s filled with turmoil behind-closed-doors mainly because Valerie cannot have intimate relations with her husband due to still suffering from bad flashbacks of a rape that happened to her several years before. She is supposed to see a therapist to help her get through the traumatic experience, but she feels it’s not helping her enough, so she quits going. With their sex life stagnant Jason moves-out and goes on an extended ‘vacation’. Home alone Valerie begins hearing strange noises at night and convinced that an intruder has broken-in. She searches around, but doesn’t see anyone, but then the next night the intruder comes back wearing a mask and suit that makes him resemble a giant bird. Valerie finds herself put at ease with his presence and able to enjoy sex again without being tormented by her ugly memories.

The one thing that I did like was showing how difficult it is for the victim to get over a sexual assault. Sometimes people may never full recover from these types of events and this is one of the first films to tackle the post traumatic stress of it, so in that realm it should be applauded, but it never gives any details about the assailant, or whether he was ever caught, which I found frustrating.

The film though fails when it shows Valerie change into this promiscuous vamp who during the first half was hyper-paranoid about any man getting near here and yet when one appears in tacky costume late at night she’s cool with it and lets down her defenses completely. Most women who hadn’t been raped would be panicked at seeing a strange man wearing a wild getup in their home, so why isn’t Valerie and why the sudden flip in her personality, which are never answered (at least not sufficiently).

She also allows a man, played by Gene Davis, that she only knows very casually, to come-over to her place where she is all alone, so that she can paint a portrait of him in the nude. You’d think that if she has such anxiety around men that she wouldn’t do this. Anyone else would be concerned, at least a little, about the man taking advantage of the situation, but Valerie doesn’t until it’s too late, which again given her past doesn’t make any sense.

Spoiler Alert!

The twist ending, where it’s found that the guy in the bird suit is really Sean (Paul Jenkins) a friend and collaborator to Valerie’s husband, is by far the stupidest thing about it. For one thing Sean is shown downing large amounts of alcohol constantly making it seem like he’d barely be able to stand-up let alone make love, or beat-up another man who is much younger and better built. It’s also quite clear that even with his clothes on Sean is middle-aged with a potbelly, but when he’s playing the bird man his stomach is flat and muscular. This is because these scenes were done by a stand-in named Mark Hanks, but the viewer is supposed to believe that it’s really Sean, so why is the body type so different?

For these reasons and for the incredibly corny wrap-up, which should win the award for corniest ending ever, is why this movie was a definite career killer for Vadim whose talent was already considered overrated even before this one came-out.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: April 11, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roger Vadim

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD-R (j4hi.com)

52 Pick-up (1986)

52

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Blackmailed over sex tape.

Harry (Roy Scheider) runs a successful construction company and is married to Barbara (Ann-Margret) who’s running for city council. One day Harry gets abducted by three men in hoods (John Glover, Clarence Williams III, Robert Trebor). They bring him to an abandoned building and show him a video tape that they’ve recorded featuring Harry’s steamy affair with a 20-something stripper named Cini (Kelly Preston). They demand $105,000 per year to stay quiet and if not they’ll release the tape to the press. Harry decides not to go to the police for fear it would jeopardize his wife’s political ambitions and instead does the investigating himself to find the tape and the men who made it and then turn-the-tables on them.

In 1984 The Cannon Group bought the rights to Elmore Leonard’s novel of the same name with the intent of turning it into a spy thriller with the setting changed from Detroit to Tel Aviv. Leonard was commissioned to write the script, but the drafts he submitted were deemed unacceptable and eventually someone else was hired as the screenwriter and the movie became known as The Ambassador2 years later John Frankenheimer, after having read the novel, decided he’d like to turn it into a movie in a more faithful version to the book. Since The Cannon Group still owned the rights they agreed to produce though several changes were made including having the setting in Los Angeles, which was mainly done for budgetary reasons.

While I’ve complained about other movies produced by The Cannon Group this one looks much more polished and could’ve easily been released by a major studio. I enjoyed the constantly moving camera that turns every scene into one unending tracking shot, which gives it a visual energy and allows the viewer to feel like they’re right there in the setting with the camera acting as their point-of-view as they move around amongst the action.

Many movies from the 80’s touched on the tawdry, underground lifestyles of Los Angeles, but would always pull-back before it became too distasteful and yet this one dives completely in and never leaves. By immersing the viewer into the seamy environment it helps them to better understand the sick nature of the bad guys and the elements that made them believe they could get away with it. It also features adult film stars from the era including Amber Lynn, Jamie Gillis, Tom Byron, and Barbara Dare. Porn legend Seka was also set to be in it, but the aging and apparently still quite horny Frankenheimer pestered her behind-the-scenes in an effort to have sex and even asked her out on a date, which was enough to get her to walk off the set.

The three antagonists are the most entertaining aspect. Glover gives a poetic quality to his character’s sliminess and is mesmerizing in his vileness. Clarence Williams III, best known for his work in the TV-show ‘Mod Squad’ has a creepy intensity that makes his scene riveting. Trebor, as the extremely anxious strip bar owner, makes breaking down in a panic an art form.

The problem is with the two leads who get upstaged by the baddies. In fact during the second-half the three villains receive more screen time than the heroes making it seem like the movie is more about them. Scheider’s insistence on trying to track down the culprits on his own with only an inkling of clues is intriguing to an extent, but he ends up finding their whereabouts too easily. Otherwise Scheider and Ann-Margret do nothing but react to the situation they’re in instead of propelling the action. It’s not because of bad acting either, but more due to the script that doesn’t flesh-out their characters enough to make them interesting, or for the viewer to care what happens to them.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: April 16, 1986

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Frankenheimer

Studio: The Cannon Group

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Tubi

Sunday Lovers (1980)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Stories about illicit sex.

International production has 4 stories taking place in a different country with a famous male movie star and director native to that region. The stories central theme revolves around love-making, or attempts thereof, and all outside of marriage. The concept sounds like it should’ve been a creative experiment especially with all the big-name talent, but the results are flat and forgettable.

The first story, ‘An Englishman’s Home’, stars Roger Moore as Harry Lindon, a rich man who owns a villa that Winston Churchill once resided in. He meets by chance a beautiful young blonde named Donna (Priscilla Barnes), who’s an airline stewardess in London on layover and who becomes impressed with Harry’s home and goes with him to visit it. It’s there that Harry plots with his loyal butler (Denholm Elliot) to get her to go to bed with him, but his plans are disrupted when his lady friend Lavina (Lynn Redgrave) comes for a unexpected visit. He and his butler spend the evening trying to avoid having the two meet by creating a scheme where Harry will be ‘forced’ to leave the dinner table with one to answer a phantom phone call, which allows him to then visit the other one before being informed by his butler of yet another ‘phone call’.

Moore is funny with his glib and sarcastic delivery and Barnes is amusing playing-up the ditzy blonde persona. The plot though is neither original, or entertaining and becomes boring quite quickly. The ending has a novel twist, but this is where I felt the story should’ve begun, which would’ve been more interesting.

The second segment, ‘The French Method’ was written by the prolific Francis Veber and deals with Francois (Lino Ventura), a French businessman, trying to close a deal with an American businessman named Henry (Robert Webber) The problem is that Henry is a middle-aged lech who’s got the hots for Francois’ attractive receptionist Christine (Catherine Salviet). Henry insists that before any deal is made he must have dinner with both Francois and Catherine. Francois is reluctant to ask Catherine to come along, but he’s so desperate for the deal to go through he becomes willing to do almost anything. Christine agrees despite disliking Henry. Once the dinner engagement commences Henry makes clear that he wants Francois to come-up with a polite excuse to leave, so the two can be alone together. Francois does as he’s asked, but then returns to have a confrontation with Henry, which leads to unexpected results.

This segment is expertly played by the three leads particularly Ventura and the characters are fleshed-out enough to keep it intriguing. The final twist is fun making this easily the best of the four.

The third segment, ‘Skippy’, was written and directed by Gene Wilder who also stars in the lead. It’s about a suicidal patient who’s allowed a weekend pass out of a mental hospital. He then meets-up with a younger woman (Kathleen Quinlan) at a disco. They hit-it-off especially after finding that each of them are ‘nutcases’. They go back to her place and share a passionate night of lovemaking only for him to have his heart broken the next day when she confides in him a surprising revelation.

This story is helped greatly by Quinlan who is young and beautiful and you even get to see her topless though you also have to put up with Gene’s bare bum too. Either way she gives a sprightly performance, but the story is odd and takes too long to play out. I was expecting it to go in a different direction than it does and the ending offers no pay-off.

The final segment, ‘Armando’s Notebook’, stars Ugo Tognazzi as a married man whose wife goes off on a trip to visit her sick mother. Armando uses this as an excuse to hook-up with old girlfriends from the 60’s by using his little black book that still lists their addresses and phone numbers. Unfortunately when he meets them he finds that things have changed quite a bit and not for the better. Many have aged to the point that they’re no longer attractive, or have become ‘liberated’ through feminism and won’t allow him to take advantage of them like they used to. One turns-up dead while yet another has become a high class prostitute who even accepts credit cards.

While this story is watchable it’s also too jokey and features a weird bit where one of the women, played by Sylva Koscina, has acquired the ability to suck in a massive amount of air and then blows it out with hurricane force, which has a strange supernatural vibe that doesn’t fit with the rest of the material.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 31, 1980

Runtime: 2 Hours 5 Minutes

Rated R

Directors: Bryan Forbes, Edouard Molinaro, Dino Risi, Gene Wilder

Studio: Viaduk Productions

Avaliable: None

The Ambassador (1984)

ambassador

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Searching for porno film.

Peter (Robert Mitchum) is a US Ambassador to Israel who has an idealistic view on how to find peace in the Middle East by bringing together young Jews and Muslims who he hopes will work together for middle ground solutions. Not everyone including Peter’s own security agent Frank (Rock Hudson) thinks this is realistic. Peter’s wife Alex (Ellen Burstyn) feels ignored by her husband and falls into the arms of a much younger man named Hashimi (Fabio Testi) who just so happens to work for the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). Alex’s rendezvous with him are sexual in nature and during one of their meetups they are secretly recorded on film. Peter then gets blackmailed to pay a large sum of money, or risk having the movie broadcast on TV. Peter refuses to comply and orders Frank to find the whereabouts of the blackmailers hoping to retrieve the original print before it can be seen by anyone else.

This was yet another film shot on-location in Israel that was produced by Menahem Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus, who bought the production company known as the Cannon Group during the 70’s and were notorious for producing, and sometimes writing and directing, a lot of slap-dash action flicks that were made in such a quick, assembly line style, that it got them the nicknames of the Go-Go- Boys. This film isn’t as bad as some of those and features tight editing and interesting twists. It was inspired by the 1974 Elmore Leonard novel ’52 Pick-Up’ and Leonard himself was hired to write the screenplay, but after his first two drafts were rejected he walked-out. The only elements of the story that was retained was the sex film blackmail plot, but everything else was changed though 2 years later the Cannon Group produced 52 Pick-Up that starred Roy Scheider and Ann-Margaret that was more faithful to the original book.

Surprisingly the best thing about this version is Hudson and while I’ve been critical about some of his other performances he shines here despite being already quite ill and looking gaunt and not as muscular. The role had originally been offered to Telly Savalas, but due to scheduling conflicts he had to bow out and Hudson was brought in just a week before filming began. Even with his poor health he takes part in most of the action and has a strong presence though reports were that he and Mitchum did not get along and had many arguments throughout the shoot.

Mitchum, who took the role after getting accused of being anti-semitic and a holocaust denier, is wonderful despite his age and face that has a very tired and worn-out look. Burstyn is excellent too and I was genuinely shocked at her nude scene, no body double here, and at age 51 still looked great doing it.

Spoiler Alert!

The film’s ending had me rolling-my-eyes a bit with the way it’s able to bring together these Jewish and Muslin students at a remote location and somehow get them to see eye-to-eye on things, which seemed too easy and romanticized. The proceeding bloodbath did take me by surprise though having Mitchum conveniently leave the scene and is therefore not a part of the carnage that kills everybody else seemed like it would come-off as suspicious to others. The viewer knows he had no idea of the pending massacre, but the other characters don’t and having him quietly leave just before the shooting commenced would make some believe that he had something to do with it, or maybe even set-up the students to get killed and thus be despised by the other people at the end instead of considered a visionary hero like he is.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 12, 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 37 Minutes

Rated R

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Studio: Cannon Film Distributors

Available: DVD-R (MGM Limited Edition Collection) Blu-ray

The Sex O’Clock News (1985)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: News stories about sex.

KSEX is a TV-station that’s modeled like an ordinary broadcast station that has a 2-person anchor team (Doug Ballard, Lydia Mahan) that delivers the news and a show similar to ‘Entertainment Tonight’ that talks about the latest gossip in Hollywood and is hosted by Bill Wright (Wayne Knight) and Wanda Bennett (Kate Weiman). It even has a sports desk lead by Marty Cohen (Rob Baartlett). The only difference between these news shows and the regular ones is that the reports deal exclusively with sexual topics from nude car washes to abusive game shows.

This was yet another attempt to replicate the success of Kentucky Fried Movie that worked off of a collection of short raunchy skits loosely based around a bawdy theme. The unique genre began with The Groove Tube in 1974 and got imitated by many other independent filmmakers throughout the ’70’s who liked the format because it could be made on a low budget and yet still attract attention due to the outrageous humor. Some of them, which are too many to list here, were mildly funny while others fell flat. By the 80’s this type of movie had pretty much burnt itself out and was no longer in vogue. Only one other Amazon Women on the Moon was made, but since 1987 this genre has gone dark and most would probably say, due to the dubious quality, is probably for the best.

This one is borderline. Not all the skits work, but it does go for a darker edge, which helps. This was part of the problem with the others is that they had this idea that just showing breasts, or making a sexual reference would be enough to get a titillated giggle from the audience, like everybody is just a perpetual 7th grader, but by the 80’s with the proliferation of porn easily attainable at video stores, just making a movie with nudity was no longer provocative enough, so this one digs deeper with material of a very political Incorrect nature.

Some of the ones I found amusing, though others might find offensive especially in this day and age, was the bit promoting suicides by having people jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and captured for posterity on either VHS or Beta. There’s also the report dealing with violent nuns trained to beat-up and even kill anyone that doesn’t convert to Catholicism. A vacation cruise for overweight people is kind of amusing as is a wrestling match between Joan Rivers and Elizabeth Taylor (lookalikes not the actual celebrities) where there’s a lot of quips dealing with Taylor’s weight. There’s also a segment dealing with a transsexual beauty pageant, that might’ve offended more if it were actually funny and a skit dealing with a clinic that does experimental surgery on gay men to turn them straight, or as the anchor states: “they walk in a fruit and leave a vegetable”.

Sprinkled in-between are ads like the Jesse James School where people are sent training materials through the mail on how to become a successful bank robber. There’s also a long segment dealing with a game show called ‘You Bet Your Ass’ where a family, whose father is on death row, must answer each question correctly, or their dad gets fried on the electric chair, which has a decent payoff though it takes too long to get there.

Like with the other films from this genre there’s spotty laughs here and there, but it lacks momentum. Despite the short running time I kept glancing at my watch waiting for it to be over. The production values are cheap giving it a home movie quality and the overall design of the news studio is unimaginative there also isn’t any young future comic star that eventually rose to the top as no one from this cast ever became famous. Unless you like seeing a movie with tasteless humor of a bygone era that could clearly never be made today, there’s really no other reason to watch it.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: August 9, 1985

Runtime: 1 Hour 17 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Romano Vanderbes

Studio: Chase Films

Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.om)

Love Scenes (1984)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Aging actress does erotica.

Val (Tiffany Bolling) is an accomplished Hollywood actress who gets pressured by her husband Peter (Franc Luz) to perform the starring role in the latest movie that he’s directing. Peter’s producer Sidney (Jack Carter) wants Val to do a nude scene, which he feels will generate enough controversial attention that it will get people ‘lining-up around the block’ to see it. Val resists at first, but finally agrees. However, once the movie starts filming she finds she that she’s turned-on by her co-star Rick (Daniel Pilon) and instead of rebuffing him like the script calls for the two make-out. Peter likes the energy that the scene creates and decides to leave it in and then, much to the disappointment of screenwriter Belinda (Julie Newmar), rewrites the story to accommodate the clear attraction that the two stars have for each other. In the process it begins pushing Val and Rick more and more towards each other and the two start having an affair off-screen. By the time the self-absorbed Paul realizes this he fears it may be too late to save their marriage.

Incredibly sterile story, despite the saucy elements, that seems to be aimed at an audience from a bygone era that felt nudity onscreen was ‘shocking’ and having affairs, or even thinking of someone else besides one’s spouse in a lustful way to be ‘scandalous’. The film that they’re making, which is supposed to be ‘envelope pushing’ is benign soap opera stuff and the sex scenes, in comparison to all the raunchy teen comedies that came-out in that same decade, would barely excite or turn-on anyone.

My biggest beef was the unrealistic way it portrays the business. Instead of exposing the real ins-and-outs like it should’ve they focus on the way they think audiences presumed it works. Case-in-point is Belinda who gets offered $50,000, which would be $142,577 in today’s dollars, to write the script even though she has no experience. Later she becomes outraged when they require her to do rewrites and then irate, to the point of walking-off the set, when the actors ad-lib their lines instead of reading them verbatim despite the fact that these things are quite common during filming and since she used to be a movie actress before turning to screenwriting she would’ve known that.

While Bolling gives a  good performance I had a lot of issues with her character. She seems genuinely thrown-off when she becomes attracted to her co-star despite this happening more than you think and a great example of it would be Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, so why is this supposedly veteran actress so naive about this phenomenon? If she’d been faking orgasms for 5 years with her husband as she admits to I would’ve thought her eyes would’ve been wandering a hell of a lot sooner than it does anyways. She also gets shocked when her friend, played by Britt Ekland, confesses to being into other women even though in Hollywood gay people have always been quite prevalent and this admission wouldn’t be anything wild to hear and yet she acts like it’s a ‘weird’ concept that she needs time to adjust to almost like she’d been living in a cave.

Jack Carter gives a funny performance as a cigar chomping producer, which of course is an extreme caricature, but at least he’s amusing. Had the film tried to be a satire the concept might’ve worked and maybe even been entertaining, but going the soap opera route makes it shallow and torturous to sit through.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: September 10, 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bud Townsend

Studio: Playboy Productions

Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.com)

Crossover (1980)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: He’s slipping into insanity.

Mr. Patman (James Coburn) works as a nurse at a psychiatric ward in Canada. While he enjoys his work and the patients respond well to his methods he’s put-off by some of the other doctors and administrators who he feels don’t really care about the people they’re supposedly trying to help. He’s also carrying on an affair with two women. One is Nurse Peobody (Kate Nelligan) who works at the same hospital he does and the other is Abadaba (Fionnula Flanagan) the wife of his landlord. While trying to juggle these two women and dealing with the pressures of his job he begins seeing strange visions and fears the he may be losing his mind.

This is quite similar to Beyond Reasonwhich starred Telly Savalas. This one though fared a bit better at least for the first 20 minutes. I liked the way the hospital and the patients are portrayed where their impulsive and unpredictable behavior gives it a certain creepy vibe and the staff needs to be high alert at all times, or face the consequences, which for me brought out the realistic stresses of doing a job like that. The bleak, gray, and rainy setting of Vancouver, shot there to take advantage of the Canadian tax concessions that were given to film production companies at the time, helps accentuate the grim elements.

The film though fails to take advantage of what could’ve been an intriguing plot. Not enough weird visions are seen and the few that are, are underwhelming. It should’ve been approached as a thriller and filled with all sorts of nightmarish and surreal imagery that could’ve helped build the tension, but instead it gets treated as a drama with long talky segments between Coburn and his two girlfriends that bogs the whole thing down until you don’t care what happens. John Guillermin, the director, had helmed many successful features before this one including: King Kong, Death on the Nile, and The Towering Inferno, but shows no panache here and seems to be giving the material only a half-hearted effort. It might’ve done better had John Huston, who was the original choice to direct, had been hired instead.

Coburn, who stated that he did the movie due to an interest in the character who decides he finds the crazy world inside the hospital more comforting than the outside one, but later admitted that had he read the script after its numerous rewrites instead of accepting the offer upfront, he most likely would’ve rejected it, is excellent and the only good thing about the movie. Nelligan, who described the film as being a ‘nightmare’ while working on it as well as calling it an embarrassment, is not as interesting and the entire supporting cast is blah though the young woman patient named Miss Montgomery, played by Tabitha Harrington, who enjoys walking around nude at least offers some diversion.

The script was written by Thomas Headly Jr. in 1971 who later went on to write Flashdancewhich storywise is quite different from this. There’s also a twist ending, though I figured it out long before it gets there and others most likely will too. I feel this was the type of concept where it started with the ending and then gotten written from there, but more side elements were needed instead of just relying on the twist to make it interesting, which for a 30-minute episode of ‘Twilight Zone’ might’ve worked, but as a feature film it gets stretched too thin.

Alternate Title: Mr. Patman

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 5, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 37 Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Guillermin

Studio: Film Consortium of Canada

Available: DVD-R (j4hi.com)

Tapeheads (1988)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Starting a video company.

Ivan (John Cusack) and Josh (Tim Robbins) are two slackers who can’t hold down a job for too long. After getting fired as security guards they decide to start-up their very own music video production company, which they name ‘Video Aces’. They find it tough going with many people, like with one producer, the sly Mo Fuzz (Don Cornelius), trying to get them to do the work on spec where they’re forced to make the video using their own funds with the vague promises of potential money later on after they’re ‘discovered’. They finally hit-on the idea of promoting the singing duo the Swanky Modes (Sam Moore, Junior Walker) a soul group that the two idolized in the 70’s when they were kids. Their plan is to hijack a Menudo concert and have the Swanky Modes sing in their place and thus exposing their music to a whole new audience.

The film is produced by the former Monkee Mike Neismith, who had earlier produced the very successful cult hit Repo ManUnfortunately this one doesn’t work quite as well. Much of the problem is that it’s directed by Bill Fishman whose background is in music videos and not filmmaking and it shows. Repo Man succeeded because it was centered around a character and it also had a better mix of quirky comedy and story development. This one is handled in a more slap-dash way. Cusack and Robbins both give excellent performances, but are only seen intermittently and they never really grow or evolve like a character in a good movie should nor do they earn their way into the next scene. Instead they become almost like Barbra Eden from ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ where they just seem to pop in and out of these weird scenarios with bizarre people. The plot is thin and more like a collection of wacky skits. Even as satire it fails because it pokes fun of so many various things, in a completely rambling way, that it becomes unclear what the point, or message is supposed to be. There are certainly some clever, funny bits, but ultimately it comes-off more like an experiment gone awry than a movie.

While the cast is filled with a lot of recognizable faces most of them aren’t seen much. I was disappointing that Doug McClure, as Josh’s exasperated and disapproving dad, wasn’t in it more as he had he potential of creating some interesting confrontations. Susan Tyrrell gets wasted too, which is a shame as she talks here with a high society accent, but  I do remember her saying in an interview that she considered herself a ‘lazy person’ who only did movies for the money and would drop-out altogether if she didn’t need to earn a living, so in that respect maybe she didn’t mind the small bit. Lee Arenberg, who plays a security guard, is only in the beginning, but should’ve returned as he’s seen eating Twinkies while sitting on a toilet inside a public stall and anyone who does something that gross deserves more attention.

Some of the roles are bigger. Mary Crosby, the daughter of Bing Crosby, who starred in the infamous Ice Pirates, 5 years before this one, which virtually killed her film career before it began, does quite well here as a duplicitous agent and actually seems to get more screen time than the two stars. The aging Clu Gulager is quite funny as a Presidential candidate with major skeletons in his closet. The best one though is King Cotton (real name Richard Sony) who was the lead vocalist of the blues band Navasota in the 60’s. Here he plays a restaurant owner who partakes in a wacky music video to promote his business with one version shown during the film and another one called ‘Roscoe’s Rap’ that gets played at the end over the closing credits with both being quite memorable.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: January 22, 1988

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bill Fishman

Studio: Filmstar

Available: DVD, Plex

Old Enough (1984)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Friendship over the summer.

Lonnie (Sarah Boyd) is a pre-teen living in an upscale neighborhood of New York while 14-year-old Karen (Rainbow Harvest) resides in a working class area. The two have many differences including Karen being Catholic while Lonnie is secular. Despite their contrasts they forge a tenuous friendship where Karen gets Lonnie to do a lot of things she wouldn’t do normally. Lonnie though enjoys the change of pace and getting away from having to go to summer camp everyday. However, when a sexually promiscuous woman named Carla (Roxanne Hart) moves into an apartment next to Karen’s she worries that her father (Danny Aiello) is having an affair with her. Lonnie knows it’s really Karen’s brother Johnny (Neill Barry) that’s been sleeping with her, but when she tries to tell Karen Johnny threatens Lonnie with violence.

The 80’s was known for its abundance of teen oriented flicks and with the exception of the John Hughes movies many of them were low grade. It seemed like it was impossible to make a movie about adolescents that didn’t require wild parties, abortions, crude language, and sexually provocative themes and yet this one manages to avoid all of that and is way better for it. It’s not like they’re squeaky clean either as they do at one point engage in shop lifting, but it’s all on a smaller scale focusing more on the little coming-of-age moments that happens to all of us when growing up without the over-the-top nonsense.

The acting by the two leads is perfect though Leonard Maltin in his review, or whoever wrote it for him, complained that Rainbow Harvest didn’t have much of a ‘screen presence’ though I felt she did just fine. One thing is clear is she definitely had hippie parents as that’s her given name and not a stage one. What I got a kick out of most about her character is that she’s streetwise in certain areas, but glaringly unsophisticated in others much like a teen at that age would be. Her indoctrination into Catholicism I found the most intriguing as she’s required to attend Catholic school and go through all the necessary rituals when she does something bad like reciting a specific prayer out loud and going to confession, which she does yet she continues to be susceptible to temptation including stealing money from a sleeping lady at one point. This made me wonder if having kids go to a religious school versus a public one really builds the ‘moral character’ that it’s intended, or they just end up doing what they want anyways and getting into just as much mischief as a regular kid who was not raised with any religion.

Boyd is excellent though she looks a bit too young. She states in the movie that she’s 11 and a half (IMDb incorrectly says her character is 12), but she looks more like she’s only 8 or 9. It was possible the intention was to make her younger than Karen in order to convey that she was more sheltered, but I think this could’ve been done with the girls being the same age. Again, I enjoyed Boyd’s performance, but her tiny frame made me nervous that she wouldn’t be able to defend herself and there are a few moments with guys where it comes close. Fortunately the movie never takes these moments too far, but it still ends up coming off like she’s a child more than someone ready to enter adolescence though the  shocked looks on her face, which happens frequently, are the film’s highlight.

Alyssa Milano is great too in her film debut playing Lonnie’s kid sister. She’s better known for her work in her other 80’s movie appearance Commandobut her acting here is better and while she’s not in it a lot she does manage to steal the scenes that she has.

Maltin complained the film was ‘too mild’, but for me that’s the selling point. Keeping it on a microcosmic level made it more relevant and reminded me of my own experiences growing up in the 80’s. In fact I’d rate this as being one of the better teen films from the decade and it’s no surprise it ended up winning first prize at the 1984 Sundance Film Festival.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: August 24, 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Marisa Silver

Studio: Orion Classics

Available: DVD, Tubi, Amazon Video

Class of 1984 (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teacher battles teen gang.

Andrew Norris (Perry King) is the new teacher at Lincoln High, which is an inner-city school prone to a lot of violence and drugs. He’s been hired to teach a music class while replacing another teacher who left suddenly. Almost immediately he’s at odds with Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten) the leader of a school gang that constantly disrupts his class. He eventually is able to kick him out, but Peter continues to harass Norris in the off-hours where they vandalize his car and attack his wife (Merrie Lynn Ross). Norris eventually decides he’s had enough especially after the principal (David Gardner) and even the police detective (Al Waxman) show him little support, so he takes matter into his own hands by violently confronting Peter and refusing to back down.

The film, which was directed by Mark L. Lester, who as a B-movie director has done some compact, quality stuff, has definite shades to Teacherswhich came out 2 years later, but with the same type of theme. This one though is harder edged, which makes it a bit better though it’s still weaker than Unman, Wittering, and Zigowhich it also has some similarities to, but without the intriguing mystery element. Lester has stated that he wanted to make an updated version of Blackboard Jungle, but with a grittier feel and while it may have succeeded in that respect it still comes-off as needing an updating. The school gangs dress in an over-the-top way and at times it’s hard to tell whether this wants to be taken seriously, or intended as camp. As violent as it sometimes gets it still doesn’t touch on school shootings, which was unheard of at the time, but would make a modern day high school movie that would deal with that subject more violent and scarier and making this stuff, as edgy as it tries to be, seem tame by comparison.

The ratio of black and white students doesn’t mesh. This was supposed to be an inner city school, so you’d think there would be more students of color than white, but instead it’s 98% white with only 1 or 2 black kids per class.  Norris’ roomy home in the plush suburbs seemed too nice for someone working off of a teacher’s salary, so unless his wife had a high income job, which is never confirmed, then the home he lives in wouldn’t be realistic. The reason for Stegman becoming a gang leader doesn’t make sense either. Normally kids get involved in gangs due to being stuck in poverty, but Stegman lives in the suburbs where gang life is quite rare. If he was from an abusive family then it might justify, but his mother (Linda Sorensen) takes his side on everything, so again his motivation for joining a gang isn’t believable and in a lot of ways quite absurd.

I did enjoy King n the lead. He’s played some creepy parts quite effectively in the past, so I wasn’t sure if he could pull-off a good-guy role, but he does it quite admirably. Roddy McDowall is great too in the last film he appeared in with brown hair as after this he began sporting an all gray look. The scene where he teaches a class while holding all the students at gunpoint is by far the best moment. It’s fun too seeing Michael J. Fox (billed without the ‘J’) as a high school student even though he was already 21 at the time of filming. He looks more pudgy and has a bowl haircut though ultimately other than getting stabbed doesn’t have much to do. The weakest link is Van Patten who’s not scuzzy enough to give the role the nastiness that it needed.

The table saw death deserves kudos and the gas fire one isn’t bad either. Having he teachers turn-the-tables on the students and violently fight back gives the movie a novel edge though I wished that King and McDowall had teamed-up together to take on the kids instead of doing it individually. The story though doesn’t get interesting until the violent third act. The theme has also been tackled many times before and this one doesn’t add anything unique to the mix and for the most part is painfully predictable.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: August 20, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mark L. Lester

Studio: United Film Distribution Company

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Pluto, Tubi, Freevee, Amazon Video