#1086 Disconnected (1984)

The only relief I had when watching this movie was the realisation that I wasn’t sitting in a movie screening, having to watch through this pile of excrement just because the filming crew were my acquaintances. Because Disconnected is precisely the kind of student film crap that calls for intervention from the friends: Telling them kindly but firmly that making movies might just not be the right choice for them.

I won’t waste any more time – mine or yours – listing everything that’s wrong with the film; it’s easier to just state there is absolutely nothing of value here.

The only merit that Disconnected has is its ability gathers all the worst aspects of indie horror films into one, and upping the ante by making simple slasher formula so cryptic nobody can understand one bit of it.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 0%

#1085 And God Created Woman (1988)

Directed by Roger Vadim who also directed the 1956 Et Dieu… Créa la Femme that launched Brigitte Bardot’s career, And God Created Woman shares the same title, but brings a completely new story in an very edgy form to the 80s, resulting a catastrophic failure of a movie.

Life is tough for the characters of Rebecca De Mornay and Vincent Spano who play a woman prisoner on a parole, and a carpenter single parent respectively. And it’s oh so tough, and so melodramatic all the time. All sorts of emotional quarrels of love follow, so she decides to put together a rock band to pour all that agony into her songs, all while having erotic B-movie scenes with the carpenter and a famous politician played by Frank Langella.

Essentially a filmatisation of some 2-penny erotic novel I didn’t want to read in the first place, And God Created Woman is a remarkably bad movie – a piece of cinematic garbage that I can’t find any justification for.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 4%

#1084 Savannah Smiles (1982)

I can think of thousands of ways Savannah Smiles could’ve gone very wrong; a tale of two criminals in a run after a jailbreak inadvertently kidnapping a young girl is a delicate subject even for 1982, and a theme that would never go through the executives these days.

What happens afterwards is of course foreseeable. The young girl touches the hearts of the fugitives who let their shields down for the first time and grow attached to her. And Savannah in return finds love and comfort she lacked back home.

What makes this movie tick is the heartfelt change the leads Mark Miller and Donovan Scott manage to convey, as well as the the apparent love that Miller – who also wrote the manuscript – had for the subject.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 65%

#1083 Loverboy (1989)

If my memory serves me correctly, I watched Loverboy just a bit before I started this project and so it probably served as some kind of catalyst back then.

Watching the movie now I was actually pretty impressed how well it all comes together. It addresses the obvious genre pitfalls nicely, does a good job of not antagonising the main character without really letting him away with it too easily, ties much of the mishaps together really nicely and is just genuinely funny at times.

While I can’t say I’m big fan of 80s all too wimpy, prior to getting hit with a handsome stick Patrick Dempsey, Loverboy does mark for his strongest comedic role I’ve witnessed so far.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 86%

#1082 Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? aka Café New York (1983)

If you dislike indie artsy cinema, Can She Bake a Cherry Pie is precisely the kind of movie that would make you hate them even more.

Shot ad-libbing (or so it seems) in New York, the movie shows a recently separated woman and middle aged man entering a relationship where they have sex and go through their neuroses. Watching the movie felt as if I was 6 years old again and having to listen to the adults having a tediously long and boring talks. But it’s even worse than that; here the people are in their underwear while having these long, yawn inducing discussions.

And as if the movie wasn’t artsy enough, it’s interrupted from time to time with needless bits of Orson Welles doing a cameo as a magician trying to make some animals disappear as well as clips of the lead Karen Black singing various musical numbers in some local improv.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 1%

#1081 Shanghai Surprise (1986)

Shanghai Surprise was supposed to be a sure hit: A comedic adventure taking place in the exotic 1930s Shanghai featuring Madonna and young Sean Penn, both guaranteed box office magnets.

The general finger or blame seems to point to Madonna – a pop star turned to actor – but despite being really uncomfortable in her role as a missionary, the real problem of the movie is that it’s just plain dull to watch. George Harrison who produced the film deemed necessary to write the soundtrack as well, and his Beatlesque pop songs just don’t work at all – not with the setting nor the era. Penn who has an uncanny ability to make any role his, can’t do much with the two dimensional frames he is given here and ends up creating some sort of weak pastiche from various men leads from classic romantic adventures, with a stub that pretty much looks like it was doodled on with a ball point pen.

Shanghai Surprise is an UK production that got picked up for the blog merely because of its leads and a little bit of personal curiousness – and I got a good reminder to be a little less curious in the future.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 45%

#1080 Vibes (1988)

Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum and Peter Falk as the leads are the part of the Vibes that works.

Much of the adventure bit really don’t, and Vibes ends up something of a weaker iteration of The Golden Child released two years before, with bit of additional psychic mumbo jumbo and a hint of Indiana Jones thrown in the mix. While the first half of the movie feels like stalling as the protagonists never seems to be able to make it to the actual expedition, as the adventure part starts it turns out to be much weaker portion of the movie. Including the final encounter with the pyramid that looks as if was haphazardly put together with bit of a plexiglass and hot glue, making it one of the least impressive MacGuffins I’ve seen to date.

Luckily much of the humour works, which along with the strong cast makes Vibes tolerable, if not outright recommendable experience.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 61%

#1079 Hello Again (1987)

If you think about, considering that we all know movies are make believe it’s pretty amazing how much we’re willing to cut them some slack in terms of realism. We prefer a good story to realism and sympathise with characters we know never existed and it really takes a considerable load of baloney for us to lose our faith in the story.

Throughout its running time Hello Again tries these limits: Starting from improbable, moving onto unlikely, all the way through poppycock, ending somewhere between ridiculous, moronic – and downright painful.

I do love Shelley Long. She’s one great comedienne at her very best in easy going, fluffy comedies. But Hello Again is just too much nonsense for anyone with half a brain take in.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 39%

#1078 The Black Marble (1980)

Boasting one of the most unappealing posters I’ve seen in awhile, The Black Marble is another one to the exhibit pile for not to judge a movie by its cover. Passing below the radar for the wide audience upon its march 1980 release, it’s a gem of a movie that never got the recognition it deserved.

Not settling with the obvious clichés, the movie based on the novel of Joseph Wambaugh – who also did the screenwriting here – introduces multiple unlikely elements that at first seem like an odd mix, but ends up wrapping them up so triumphantly, I almost gave the movie a standing ovation.

Harry Dean Stanton, whose legacy as the actors’ actor has only grown interest since him passing away in 2017, does once again remarkably solid work here. But it’s the wonderfully elegiac character of Sgt. A.M. Valnikov played to a such a three dimensional perfection by Robert Foxworth that was unlike anything I’ve seen to this date.

So unlike that I did not get through The Black Marble without watery eyes.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 92%

#1077 Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Panned by the critics and loved by the broad audience, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is a wonderfully quirky comedy powered single-handedly by the actress Cassandra Peterson and her wonderful, quick witted late night TV host character.

On the superficial level Elvira, who makes absolutely zero effort to hide her abundant bosom, might seem sexist especially from today’s puritanical point of view. But it has to be noted that this is her fantasy character, created and made iconic on her terms. Far from a victim of male-driven entertainment industry, she’s kind of an epitome of girl power; not willing to take cheap from anyone and ending up on the upper hand thanks to her sharp tongue. And it’s these witty comebacks that are the real comedy core of the movie and did provide plenty of few good laughs along the way.

Had the movie pressed on the gas pedal towards the end instead of sliding to the finish line like it had ran out of gas, and wrapped up without the uninspired Las Vegas bit, my final score might’ve been even more generous than Elvira’s famous cleavage.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 90%

#1076 Roar (1981)

It’s nothing short of remarkable that nobody got killed while shooting Roar.

Shot with wild cats of various species without any post processing or camera trickery, it’s truly blood-tingling to see the actors – including one young Melanie Griffith – taking part in wrestling matches with the giant beasts that in many case end up with actual bleeding wounds requiring medical care. As we’re accustomed to seeing online videos of similar play of Russian roulette ending in sudden disaster, Roar really keeps one glued to the edge of the seat.

Most people checking out the movie will do it purely out of curiosity to see the most dangerous ever filmed. And admittedly with Roar that a pretty valid reason in its own right.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 57%

#1075 Kill Me Again (1989)

Kill Me Again begins kind of lame as for some reason deems necessary to rerun all the banalities of the neo-noir genre. It’s only after the movie finally starts steering away from the obvious clichés that it finds its own tone of voice, ending a much better than anticipated thriller.

Although the then-couple Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley make for a dynamic beat up private detective treacherous femme fatale duo, it’s Michael Madsen that ends up stealing the show as the menacing, force of a nature antagonist.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 81%

#1074 Memories of Me (1988)

How’s my relationship with Billy Crystal? Well.. it’s complicated. I’ve liked him in most movies I’ve seen since child, but as the time has passed, I’ve noticed that his comedy schtick gets old really fast. In fact, I like him much better when he drops the witty act and gets down, dirty and serious with his acting.

In Memories of Me this happens right after Abbie (Billy Crystal) finally meets his father who left his family and ran off to Hollywood when Abbie was still a kid. It’s at this moment when a so-and-so movie about a top surgeon recovering from a heart attack turns into an actually interesting study about the difficulty of building a relationship with a person obsessed on being the life of a party that everybody loves – but totally at loss when it comes to showing real love for anyone close to him.

The real power of the movie is the raw energy as Crystal and Alan King as his father clash together with such intensity it feels almost as stomach churning as if you’d just had a fight of a lifetime with your own parents. Dialogue in Memories of Me also surprises positively; not only is it well written, but both leads manage to deliver their lines without a trace of insincerity.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 82%

#1073 Last Rites (1988)

Last Rites follows a New York priest who goes against the mafia protecting a Mexican immigrant.

Tom Berenger is charismatic as always. Heck – he was likeable even as a white supremacist in Betrayed. Daphne Zuniga who already had a number of successful lead roles under her belt on the other hand feels like a miscast as the Mexican femme fatale. Surely there would’ve been many actual latinos that could’ve pulled off the role with more ease.

Despite some obvious loans from other movies, I can’t say I’ve watched anything that really resembles Last Rites, which is why I actually ended liking the movie quite a lot. It’s an interesting twist on similar kind of thrillers and manages to keep a few aces up its sleeve until the very last minutes to the film.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 86%

#1072 Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again (1982)

There are movies that I look forward to watching at some point, and then there are the ones that I just have to get over with. Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again is definitely of the latter variety: I could tell already from the poster that this is going to be one of those stuffy early 80s comedies with the roots firmly in the mid-70s, and a quick glance through the chapters confirmed that I wasn’t in for a treat.

Much to my surprise the first 20 minutes of the movie aren’t that bad at all, and there are some genuinely funny visual gags here. It’s when the transformation to the sex crazy Hyde happens that the movie goes completely to the shitter.

I loathed the movie and its design choices. The chance of a possibly passable crazy comedy is ruined by an annoying lead character and on top of it all the movie manages to completely waste the talent of Tim Thomerson.

80s-o-meter: 32%

Total: 3%

#1071 Hanky Panky (1982)

Hanky Panky plays it safe.

Far too safe, in fact: It gives us the basic story of a man wrongly accused of a murder that soon finds himself tangled in an international espionage ploy.

It really feels like a rehash since Gene Wilder’s previous comedy Stir Crazy already presented us with a similar plot. There are some funny aspects here, like Wilder foolishly trying to outwit the powers that be, but otherwise Hanky Panky ends up pretty eventless, predictable and bland adventure comedy.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 43%

#1070 A Dry White Season (1989)

The slogan on the poster of A Dry White Season encapsulates perfectly the essence of the movie: No one can be free until all are free.

Taking place in South Africa during the apartheid, the movie depicts Ben du Toit and his white family who’ve gotten so used to their privileged life that they ignore the calls for help by their loyal gardener Gordon whose son goes missing during the peaceful riots and who in turn dies after being detained by the police. As du Toit soon realises, his comfortable life is built upon the repression and exploitation of others. Despite all the death and graphic violence depicted, the most upsetting aspect of the movie is how Ben soon becomes a persona non grata amongst his closest people who quietly give their quiet blessing to the violations to be able to continue their privileged lives.

A Dry White Season is one of the strongest, most upsetting movie of the era that leaves the viewer with no comfort – other than that apartheid as the institutionalised system is a ghost of the past.

The movie is a triumph also for the veteran actors Marlon Brando as the lawyer disillusioned by the system and Donald Sutherland as the seasoned teacher who realises the hard way that in a system where human rights can be taken from one of us, they can be just as easily stripped from anyone.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 93%

#1069 In Dangerous Company (1988)

Most people – I certainly included – aren’t too stoked when learning we’re about to see an erotic thriller. Mostly made for sleazy late-night cable TV viewing they can sometime be a passable time killers when they happen to be on, but more rarely does anyone admit going out to rent or buy one specifically.

With In Dangerous Company the erotic part means a femme fatale and a camera that lingers on in scenes with the leads kissing passionately just a bit too long. The thriller part is handled by giving all the characters street credibility by having them sip alcohol constantly and smoking a cigarette with a theatrical passion. And speaking of street credibility, Cliff De Young – who’s one of the better movie family dad figures of the era (check out Pulse or Flight of the Navigator) – just does not cut it as the seasoned Vietnam war vet with a checkered past. Like, not at all. I would’ve rewritten his role as more of an innocent bystander who falls in love with the vamp and unsuspectingly sacrifices all that he’s got to help the seducing stranger.

In Dangerous Company offers some campy acting due to some one shot models trying to get a stab at acting, as well as plot weaker than your average kiosk pulp, but does keep the interest up for one to want to witness how the fabric of lies finally unravels.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 61%

#1068 The Beast of War aka The Beast (1989)

I was initially put off by the appearance of The Beast of War; cinematography wise the movie looked dull with most of the events taking place in a tank that wonders across a canyon in desert. But as the story evolved, I soon found the movie to be one of the more interesting and multi-layered war movies of the era.

Looking back now, it’s interesting how the movie antagonises the Russian invaders and represents the Afghan rebels as heroes who bravely stand up against the superpower that tries to take over the land as all know how this narrative was soon changed after the events that started in 2001. Secondly, the tank crew is depicted without thick comical Russian accent, which is still unheard of in Hollywood movies. Instead, they talk with American accents which can be only read as a statement that the two superpowers and their foreign policies aren’t really that different and both are known to start unjust wars to drive their own international politics. As the crew finds themselves on the run with an enemy that’s much better accustomed to the area, it’s not hard to see the correspondence to the Vietnam war.

Thirdly, although the pressure that the tank crew has to endure with is external, it’s the well portrayed internal pressure that really makes the movie: The commander’s power tripping, panic, paranoid and betrayal that the crew goes through are all interestingly documented here.

While I’m not going to change my opinion about judging books by the cover since it’s been a pretty good measurement with 80s movies, The Beast of War is a good reminder that sometimes it’s good to give a movie a fair chance despite its modest covers.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 91%

#1067 Race for Glory (1989)

A Top Gun equivalent of a motorcycle movie, Race for Glory features tons of speed, kick-ass soundtrack .. and your average, very predictable sports movie plot.

The movie is one of the very few Hollywood titles filmed in old continent that still looks fresh and American – in a good way! In fact, the luxurious international locations work really well and capture well all the excitement that surrounds the big motor sports events.

If you’re to watch Race for Glory, you should do it for mostly for the atmosphere for the plot follows a very predictable path without much surprises along the way.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 70%