#1726 The Scarlet and the Black (1983)

Over these years I’ve grown fond of underdog made for TV movies that punch far above their height in terms of telling an interesting story. In The Scarler and the Black that a real-life story is of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish Catholic priest who saved thousands of Jews and escaped Ally soldirs in Rome during WWII.

Seeing John Gielgud, Gregory Peck and Christopher Plummer work together in this movie is a treat, is capturing the essence of their characters perfectly, and adding that little flair of their own to keep things interesting.

Although the scarcer budget shows, for a made for TV movie The Scarlet and the Black is well made movie that doesn’t really give away its modest origins, other than fading out and pausing for the very apparent commercial breaks.

80s-o-meter: 43%

Total: 83%

#1725 The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1988)

Despite the apparent gung-ho theme of the film, The Siege of Firebase Gloria still shows an urge of being authentic in its depiction of hopelessness in both sides; there’s no clear cut heroes and villains. The horrific actions and dehumanizing acts done by all parties are not exaggerated but neither ignored; they are presented as a natural part of the war.

The fans of R. Lee Ermey will be happy to hear he is very much starring this show. While this is no Full Metal Jacket, there’s plenty of that same drill sergeant attitude and one liners coming from his way.

The fire fights in The Siege of Firebase Gloria are long and feel the most unrealistic and uninteresting part of the movie. Other than that the movie has interesting aspects to it and will no doubt please those who are into (Vietnam) war movies. The movie is ’drawing inspiration from real life events’ (meaning it never happened), but the lingo and depiction of the troops feels realistic – probably due to Ermey involved in co-scripting some of the scenes with the director.

80s-o-meter: 62%

Total: 71%

#1721 Bless Their Little Hearts (1983)

There’s mixed information in the internet of the movie’s release, IMDB stating 1983 and Wikipedia insisting on December 1984 release. Either way the theatrical release has been extremely limited and the movie is not the kind of popular movie to make it big on VHS, so it was more or less forgotten upon its release.

But make no mistake, Bless Their Little Hearts is a gem of an indie movie.

Following the life of an unemployed African-American father of three struggling to find work and make the ends meet, the real star of the movie is Kaycee Moore whose portrayal of his wife frustrated by having to provide to her family and her husband while trying to keep the family somehow functional. Watch her as she is having a 10-minute long, quite verbal argument with her husband and tell me she does not deserve an Oscar for her role play.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 81%

#1720 Lust for Freedom (1987)

I could not be less interested in women prison exploitation movies that saw their hay day in late 70s and early 80s, but Lust for Freedom being a Troma release and kind of late to the show, I was hoping there to be something different of interest here.

Well, there is — kind of. Right off the bat the movie starts off with a better background story of a woman underground police officer quitting her job after traumatic events and wandering into to a small town with its law enforcers running a human trafficking ring. What follows is basically every cliché of the exploitation movies out there, only. turned to 11; there’s more blood, more action, more cat fights, more nudity and more of other x-rated filth the fans of the genre are looking forward to.

Personally I still find the whole genre irrelevant to my movie taste, but I do have to give credit to Lust for Freedom for really going overboard with everything, and at least making it somewhat interesting to plow through.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 61%

#1719 Sleepwalk (1986)

Done with every Jim Jarmusch movie of the 80s? You might then be interested to check out Sleepwalk, directed by Jarmuch’s partner Sara Driver that feels like having fallen from the same arthouse tree.

Sleepwalk presents us with an interesting concept – a woman is hired to transcribe an ancient Chinese manuscript, after which she slowly starts to discover the manuscript has powers that begin to take over her life. This is where the movie goes off the rails and wanders deep into the world of nonsense. The events that follow in the movie are interesting and visually appealing to watch, but totally disconnected from the main story line.

If you can accept that not much of the movie even tries to make sense, you might find Sleepwalk enjoyable piece of experimental, surrealist cinema. It just isn’t for everyone – nor does it try to be.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 55%

#1718 Listen to Me (1989)

Listen to Me is basically a sports movie, with physical college sports replaced with following events of an underdog debate team. And as such it’s a unique take on the sports genre, and it’s refreshing to see a sports movie that relies thought-provoking debates instead of the last second slowed down comebacks we’ve all seen way too many times over.

While the movie may not be nowhere accurate representation of real life college debate teams, it does tackle a controversial topic – pro life vs the right to abortion – which caused controversy among some parents upon the movie’s release.

It’s this controversial topic and well written dialogue that remains topical, making Listen to Me still relevant and thought-provoking to watch.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 71%

#1717 Weekend Pass (1984)

I can add Weekend Pass to the list of movies that I misinterpreted due to its name and, theme and poster.

We’re led to expect a raunchy comedy where three horny sailors go paint the town red, with lots of gratuitous nudity thrown in, but even though Weekend Pass starts off as such movie, it finds a much more interesting tone by exposing the vulnerabilities and insecurities among the sailors, eventually turning into kind of sweet romance movie about them falling in love with three nice girls.

While this was a positive surprise, I doubt that this was the innovation that most of the audience at time was looking for, which may explain the low ratings the movie received.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 78%

#1716 Buddies (1985)

I was delighted to find Buddies, the first movie about AIDS is a non-exploitative one. Directed by Arthur J. Bressan Jr., a director with a long history of gay movies, Buddies feels quite honest in its depiction of the events and characters, never robbing any of the characters their personal traits and sexuality.

The movie is muted in most of its expression as it follows the growing friendship and emerging romance and sexual interest between a young gay man volunteering to be a buddy for an AIDS patient abandoned by his friends and lovers in the final stages of the disease.

A sign of a good movie, Buddies is still thematically relevant, as well as an interesting look into the history of the mid-80s where humanitarian groups had to step in to help for the lack of wider support from the government, and a tribute to those who risked their own safety to help others.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 81%

#1715 Distant Thunder (1988)

Most people know John Lithgow for starring in 3rd Rock from the Sun or Dexter, but every movie I’ve seen him in furthermore underlines how he is one of the greatest actors of his era, a versatile performer who has excelled in a wide range of roles and genres.

What makes Lithgow such a great actor is his ability to fully inhabit a character and bring it to life in a believable and nuanced way. He has a talent for finding the heart and humanity in even the most complex and flawed characters, and he has a natural charisma and charm that endears him to audiences.

This shows in Distant Thunder which would not be much of a movie without Lithgow’s stellar performance, as he is able to elevate both mediocre manuscript and a pack of mediocre actors to excellence with his portrayal of the many Vietnam veterans failing to rejoin civilian life, living a vagabond life as one of the mountain men in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Lithgow perfectly captures all the right nuances of socially awkward and traumatised veteran’s clumsy efforts to once again rejoin the society and reach out to his son.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 84%

#1714 Split Decisions (1988)

Split Decisions is a boxing movie straight out of a pen of a angsty teenager and its sense of drama feels like a high school musical sans the music.

The father, a boxing trainer, has two sons who are both boxers. He is proud of one and helps him prepare for the Olympics, but he frequently has conflicts with the other son, who is rebellious and hard to deal with. When the troublesome son is killed by a criminal organization after he refuses to lose a match, his brother seeks to avenge his death by challenging the boxer who was involved in the crime syndicate to a fight.

It’s a sports movie so you know how the story will end up, so while waiting for that the personas or their relationships in the movie should be super interesting to watch. Unfortunately all the characters are paper thin, almost caricature like without any interesting growth in them, replaced by drama that feels plain melodramatic and forced.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 18%

#1713 Maria’s Lovers (1984)

Andrei Konchalovsky’s 1984 drama follows the story of Ivan, a Yugoslav-American soldier returning home to Pittsburgh traumatised after being held captive in a Japanese POW camp during WW2.

Despite being desperately in love with Maria (Nastassja Kinski) and overcoming his rivals in love, Ivan’s mental health struggles prevent him from fully embracing their relationship physically and mentally. As a result, Maria becomes attracted to a travelling musician casanova.

Maria’s Lovers is visually pleasing movie that has a promise of a great movie written all over it, but ultimately feels confused about what story does it want to tell. The movie is heavy on poetic symbolism that feels similarly intriguing at times, but woefully clumsy at others.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 63%

#1712 Rappin’ (1985)

Upon the recent reviewing of Beat Street, I was expecting a cringeworthy musical with gangs rivalling in 80s rappity rap battles and being all melodramatic and their life being oh so hard. Turned out Beat Street was nothing like this, but quite a solid hiphop movie of the 80s, and Rappin’ is the cringy one to avoid.

Or, to fully embrace, if you can appreciate the pissy poor plot of Mario Van Peebles getting out of juvie, being rivalled by a gang leader straight out of Grease musical, battling the big corporation trying to take over their hood and being pushed of doing a rap record and winning a rap competition, because he is so naturally good in the art of rappity rap.

But, like everybody else he would prefer to just be grim, distant, poetic and to suffer – and make the audience suffer with him.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 31%

#1711 Halloween 2022: Watchers (1988)

Finally wrapping up this year’s Halloween with Watchers that I’ve had in my peripheral vision for a few years now, being one of the last Corey Haim movies of the 80s I haven’t yet seen.

My expectation was a supernatural movie with certain Watchers lurking in shadows, but to my surprise the movie was about a boy running into a stray dog whom he then adopts, later discovering that it is in fact a runaway experiment from a genetic research lab with mental powers equal to a human, being followed by a dangerous creature from the same lab.

And meeeeh, I did like my first impression better than this quite far fetched scifi story the movie presented to me. The movie is based on a seemingly solid book by Dean Koontz, so my only guess is that something got lost in translation here. The movie is ok, but its core audience leaves me puzzled as the movie feels thematically geared more towards 12-year olds, yet boasts R-rating.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 68%

#1710 Halloween 2022: My Demon Lover (1987)

There’s little fun to be had with movies that introduce a concept doomed to fail, and then fail, but amazingly lot of entertainment when the opposite happens.

My Demon Lover is one of those cases where something I absolutely hated on paper – A street musician becoming a demon when sexually aroused and attacking women – surprises and finds an interesting tone of its own, ending up more of a romantic comedy, sprinkled with some dark, grim humour.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 71%

#1709 Halloween 2022: The Immortalizer (1989)

For the last two years I’ve plowed through an endless list of uninspired slashers, and it was this year that I got to reap the results of that sacrifice and got to see some horror movies with more interesting concepts.

If you’ve enjoyed action comedy horror movies similar to Dead Heat, the chances are high for you to find something to enjoy here as well. The Immortalizer is wonderfully 80s straight-to-video horror movie of bunch of evil scientist types sending out their mutant creations to kidnap young, beautiful people to give old ultra rich people a chance to live in their bodies through brain transplant.

Sure, it’s trashy and highly stupid movie – but also highly entertaining one, and the poor poster does not really give it the justice it deserves.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 83%

#1708 Halloween 2022: The Cellar (1988)

A nuclear family settles into a run-down house in the Texas desert, unaware that it is cursed by a Native American enchantment in the form of a terrifying, underground creature.

The Cellar’s theme centered on stereotypical, borderline racist Native American spirituality falls flat right from the start, and does not feel real nor plausible at all. The generic and forgettable underground monster, which could have easily been replaced with pretty much anything else like an alligator, fails to be scary or threatening.

It’s just so poor script and concept that even top-notch acting and effects couldn’t save this monster horror flick.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 31%

#1707 Halloween 2022: Slaughter High aka April Fool’s Day aka The Last Laugh (1986)

Although the poster claims that Slaughter High is from the makers of Friday the 13th, they don’t share the same writers nor the director, so I’m not quite sold on that claim. Anyway, Slaughter High is a copy pastey slasher revenge movie where mistreated and disfigured nerd who was picked in high school gets back to his old school mates visiting the abandoned school in a class reunion, wearing an off-the-shelf old joker mask. Or is it him?

Well, yes it is. And there’s nothing very imaginative going on in the movie. The killer has gained superhuman powers and speed and will get anywhere in the school before others and can smell where they are without seeing them, while the ex students have become more stupid than ever, running around the school and getting separated from each others to be more easy targets.

Slaughter High isn’t a bad slasher and has proper production quality to it, but other than that it’s totally and utterly uninspired product.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 37%