#1117 Never Cry Wolf (1983)

Never Cry Wolf, based on the Farley Mowat’s controversial book of the same name marks for the first ever film for the Walt Disney Pictures label, established in 1983 to diversify film subjects and seek for broader audiences for Disney movies.

I enjoyed the vast landscapes of the subarctic Canada and the love the movie has for its canid subjects. The movie plays out pretty much as expected, so Never Cry Wolf is not about the destination, but more about enjoying the way there. The books tend to encompass these kind of personal journeys in a more intimate, thorough way, so I suspect that the original novel gives a better mileage for those really interested in the theme.

Charles Martin Smith does solid work as the lead and makes following his transformation from a city slicker into a man of the wilderness truly engaging.

80s-o-meter: 42%

Total: 61%

#1116 The Executioner, Part II (1984)

A confusing vigilante romp, The Executioner, Part II is one of those amateur, shot on the cheap film end movies that kind of pass as a real movies at quick glance, but where the total lack of film making competency quickly shines through after just a few minutes to the film.

While there are basically no redeeming qualities to the movie, it’s the shoddy directing and camera work that make the watching experience lousy. Still, the biggest shortcoming here – as in many other amateur movies – is the total lack of that certain movie magic that the more seasoned directors so manage to establish in their movies.

In the end perhaps the most interesting aspect of The Executioner is that the suggested prequel does not actually exist at all. While there’s no official reasoning available for this unorthodox naming, the theories on the net suggest that the aim was to either hint the moviegoing audience that there’d been a part one so successful that it’d warranted a sequel, or that the game was a blunt attempt to pose the movie as a sequel to similarly named The Exterminator, which received its sequel the same year.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 12%

#1115 Beyond Therapy (1987)

Robert Altman was an interesting director who managed to create awful duds like Popeye as well as masterpieces that combine the best traits of both indie and Hollywood movies, like Streamers.

Beyond Therapy falls somewhere between these two. It is an artsy film that makes some annoyingly artsy and trivial choices just for the sake of it. A drama comedy about self-centred and neurotic New Yorkers struggling with relationships begs to be hated, but for one reason or another I did find the oddly off mood somewhat enchanting. And yet, I did hate the artsy move where Altman choose to locate the movie to Paris. And yet, I didn’t care for the plot at all.

Whatever there’s good about Beyond Therapy happens in small quirky moments when a dialogue leads the viewer on, only to take a sudden, unexpected 180 degree turn. Those did manage to make me smile every now and then.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 42%

#1114 Saturday the 14th (1981)

The title Saturday the 14th already gives one good overview what to expect here: a horror parody where the title is the most witty aspect of it. And the title isn’t very witty.

On paper it all sounds pretty good: a clean cut nuclear family inherit a cursed house, after which their son accidentally unleashes a horde of monsters by opening a forbidden book. But before you get excited, there’s really not much to be loved here as the movie isn’t anywhere near the best monster adventure comedies of the era. Despite its name, the movie does not poke fun of the Friday the 13th series at all. In fact, it doesn’t seem to parodize any horror movie that I know of.

But that all is really beside the point since no matter what the movie aims for, it ends up a failure that won’t provide the scares nor the laughs. Also, the piss poor production quality crushes any hopes for at least getting to witness any cool movie monsters on screen.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 23%

#1113 Remote Control (1988)

Aliens attack the earthlings with a cheesy VHS tape programmed to watch its viewer into a homicidal monster in Remote Control, a glorious 80s homage to the 50s scifi that despite its name does not have anything to do with actual remote controls.

By far the best aspect of the movies is its pseudo futuristic 80s styling: most of the TV sets are masqueraded to look like flat screen TVs (roughly about 15 years before they were available) and all the teenagers are wearing some bitching gear straight from the 21st century with makeup and hairdos straight out of Patrick Nagel painting.

Despite the visual style being the most prominent feature here, the movie itself is not bad at all. It’s OK – not as brilliant as it could’ve been – but still very much a recommendable experience and great time capsule to the late 80s.

80s-o-meter: 98%

Total: 71%

#1112 Star Slammer aka Prison Ship (1986)

I’ve expressed my deep hatred for the woman prison exploitation flicks that peaked in their popularity during the 70s, and unfortunately continued to some extend to the 80s, always recycling the same concept and rarely bringing anything new to the equation.

Well, Star Slammer kind of does by placing the penitentiary somewhere out in space, but only to repeat the same tired clichés. Yes – even the compulsory prison cantina fight is here.

Star Slammer is useless garbage made only to showcase some T&A, and manages to waste relatively nice (in comparison to the rest of the movie) set design.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 1%

#1111 Ruthless People (1986)

From the director team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, Ruthless People is a triumph of a kidnapping comedy with a truly clever manuscript by Dale Launer the man behind Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, one of my favourite comedies of all time.

Known mostly from their crazy parodies full of visual gags and verbal puns, Ruthless People is quite a different undertaking for the directing trio and they get to demonstrate how they master all aspects of comedy with ease. Equally impressive is to witness how the distinctive comedy styles of Danny DeVito, Bette Midler and Judge Reinhold work seamlessly together with the right kind of writing.

Ruthless People became an unexpected comedy hit of the year, ending up among the top ten grossing movies of 1986.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 94%

#1110 Moving (1988)

Moving takes a humorous, borderline crazy comedy look into the imaginative array of stress factors a family is put through when they are forced to relocate from coast to coast.

The movie was criticized of its whitewashed portrayal of the urban African American family and it presents the main cast as this Cosby-esque clean cut nuclear family. Personally I didn’t mind the setup at all. On the contrary – it felt kind of a fresh approach compared to the lowest common denominator roles the African Americans usually land in various Hollywood comedies.

To my surprise Moving was a blast. Randy Quaid’s portrayal of a neighbour from hell is side splitting funny, especially during the moments where it becomes clear that he is not just a random jerk, but more of a mastermind that has set out to make his tormenting a true form of art. Moving is also one of the three more enjoyable comedies of the 80s for Richard Pryor, along with Brewster’s Millions and See No Evil, Hear No Evil.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 86%

#1109 The Dungeonmaster aka Ragewar: The Challenges of Excalibrate and Digital Knights (1984)

The Dungeonmaster is an adventure movie depicting a modern computer programmer that gets transferred to a fantasy lair run by ancient sorcerer who challenges him to tasks of defeating enemies in various modern and historical scenarios.

The Dungeonmaster is actually an anthology: Each one of the seven segments is written and directed by different people, and then tied together with interludes of the lair where the programmer returns victorious after each task. The movie would be totally banal if it didn’t have two distinctive modern 80s segments in it; one involving a serial killer and another, hilariously over the top scenario featuring W.A.S.P.

The movie remains the best known for the wide public as the origin of the like ’I reject your reality and substitute my own’, as quoted by Adam Savage in one of the episodes of the MythBusters. The movie is not worth your time for the quote alone, but you might still find it interesting fast forwarding to check it out, as well as watching through the two aforementioned segments.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 52%

#1108 To Be or Not to Be (1983)

A remake of the 1942 film of the same name, To Be or Not to Be is a delightful little WWII satire.

Taking place in nazi occupied Poland, the movie follows the crew of Warsaw theater company as they put up a show of their lifetime as they try to retrieve the leaked list containing the names of the members of the Polish resistance from the clutches of the third reich. The movie pokes delightfully fun of the quirky nazi officers who like to act grand but turn into shaky poodles when confronted by persons of higher rank.

To Be or Not to Be is the most well rounded up comedy ever to come out of Mel Brooks’ film factory. It provides the trademark zany visual comedy Brooks is so well known for, but manages to couple it with some very entertaining elements of drama, thriller, human interest and musical.

80s-o-meter: 42%

Total: 90%

#1107 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

The first Star Trek movie to be directed by William Shatner, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has the unfortunate honour of being the least exciting one in the series.

Most of the elements that made the previous three movies interesting are gone. There aren’t any memorable antagonists here, no pushing visual boundaries and no humour that made the previous instalments stand out. Perhaps most disappointingly, the human (or: Vulcan) interest aspect that probed deep into the weird and interesting chemistry between the lead characters is nowhere to be found this time around.

While the movie is no stinker, it lacks the grandeur expected from a movie launched to be the 1989 summer blockbuster, feeling much more like a prolonged episode of the original series, shot with modern cameras and slightly superior effects.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 60%

#1106 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

The Star Trek movie perhaps the most applauded by the critics, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home takes the adventure to the then-present day earth.

While many viewers seem to be fascinated by the contemporary setting, I found myself missing the vast space and distant worlds showcased in other Star Trek films, especially after the humour of the crew wandering around the streets of 1986 San Francisco sticking out like a sore thumb has worn out.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a very different Star Trek movie – to the extend that one could argue that it really isn’t a Star Trek movie at all, but more of a humoristic, eco-warrior themed spinoff of the original series. On the positive note the humour presented here is genuinely funny, and the movie wraps up nicely the three episode saga that started with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 71%

#1105 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Picking the story up right from where it was left in the previous installation, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock concentrates on the crew becoming outlaws after defying Starfleet’s Genesis quarantine and stealing a ship in order to find and save Spock from the Genesis planet.

The first Star Trek movie directed by Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek III is a significant step up in visual fidelity, and definitely one of most handsome looking scifi movies of early 80s. The story itself does not reach the grandeur of its predecessor, but overall this second part of the saga in the line is the most well rounded Star Trek movie of the era.

It’s a movie that’s always been shadowed by its predecessor and sequel – and admittedly it is much more forgettable than either one of them. But personally as a very lightweight trekkie that always preferred the original series over anything that followed, I somehow found myself enjoying The Search for Spock more than any of its siblings.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 80%

#1104 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Star Trek, the iconic TV show from the 60s saw continuum in 1979 as the first movie of the Star Trek series was released and received with mixed reviews. Given the vast public interest in scifi at the time a cost effective sequel was green lighted, and the first Star Trek movie of the 80s, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan finally saw daylight in 1982.

Made with a budget of $11.2M – one-fourth that of its predecessor – the sequel became a sleeper hit that restored the public interest in the franchise and is considered by many the best movie of the series. Much of the success is due to iconic Khan, the villainous title character of the movie played with certain charism by Ricardo Montalbán.

Personally I also preferred the sequel to the original 1979 movie, although I admittedly found the overall experience less epic than I recalled. But what the movie itself may lack in grandiosity is more than redeemed in its emotional ending that wonderfully bridges the saga towards its next instalment, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

80s-o-meter: 69%

Total: 71%

#1103 Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985)

Sporting one of the most cryptic movie names ever, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is a dinosaur movie, and something of an unrelated 80s predecessor to the now iconic Jurassic Park.

Done in the time before CGI, some of the action effects shown in the wider shots have surprisingly fared adequately, and it’s only when we get to the static closeups that the illusion of actual, living jurassic creatures is completely shattered.

Much bigger problem than the effects is where the movie tries to position itself audience wise: on the other hand there’s tons of family movie elements here – like that cutesy little Brontosaurus baby – and on the other some surprisingly graphic gun violence as well as borderline sex scenes. Although the movie does definitely have its strong points, namely the dinos and its overall sense of an adventure, on the whole the movies just isn’t well balanced at all.

It’s a shame since on paper the movie seems like an easy win that could’ve ended up another E.T. of the era.

80s-o-meter: 73%

Total: 51%

#1102 Liquid Sky (1982)

Invisible aliens in search for heroin land in New York end up harvesting the endorphin that forms in the brain as people orgasm, consequently killing them.

Liquid Sky is one of those purposely weird independent films – and apparently something of a cult classic at that. Directed by the USSR born Slava Tsukerman, the movie is really nothing to celebrate about but more of a disjointed collection of scenes than a solid movie experience. It’s characters and neon lit scenes are stylish, but very much style over substance, and the movie feels like it’s mostly designed just to impress those who associate themselves with New York’s early 80s Warholian hipster art scene.

The main problem with Liquid Sky is that it’s just plain weird – but never quite wonderfully nor charmingly so.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 23%

#1101 Rustlers’ Rhapsody (1985)

A comedy that lampoons the cowboy movies of the 30s and 40s Rustlers’ Rhapsody is a delightful little western adventure – as long as you mostly forget about the lampooning part. Why? Well, it’s not very topical subject pick fun of. The film makers were apparently aware of this so they’ve chosen to carefully point out and underline what they’ve parodied, which helps for the frame of reference, but also robs the viewer the joy of making any connections themselves.

Also, what little I know of those movies, the parody here seems something of a hit and miss.

Luckily Rustlers’ Rhapsody is a movie that’s enjoyable even without the frame of reference: It’s a likeable little fairytale like good vs bad story where the good still wins, always.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 65%

#1100 Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)

The sequel for the original 1977 Piranha movie, which was kind of a bastard child of the widely popular Jaws, Piranha II: The Spawning actual fares better than most of the idiotic Jaws sequels we saw in the 80s. It seems like your normal run-of-the-mill nature horror film, until we learn that the Piranhas have actually grown wings, after which the movie turns into a hilarious, bloody train wreck.

Piranha II is a prime example of A-grade B-grade movies: the overall production quality is good and the actors play their respective roles well, so that the outrageously ridiculous plot seems even more ridiculous, given the obvious competence elsewhere in the movie.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 67%

#1099 Heathers (1989)

Remember being 15 and hating someone someone so bad you’d wished they were dead? I didn’t, but Heathers totally reminded me going through the same kind of emotional rollercoaster – and that was the first glimpse of its above your average teenage flick virtues.

Three popular Heathers run a high school clique who cruel rule the entire school belittling, subduing and terrorising anyone foolish enough to cross path with them. After just 15 minutes to the film it’s really clear they’re not out to bruise, but to scar. Veronica is one of the students who’s saved from the harassment by being a quiet compliance who never quite stomachs all the wickedness and wishes for the demise of all the three. What seems like a materialisation of her secret wishes, appears mysterious J.D. who quickly makes all of Veronicas subconscious wishes come true.

A black comedy about bullying, revenge, mass murder and teenage suicides, Heathers’ cruel satire still finds its target so well that a movie like this wouldn’t likely be made by any of the major studios today.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 91%

#1098 Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983)

If the first sequel for Smokey and the Bandit didn’t need to be made, this holds especially true for Smokey and the Bandit Part 3.

Losing most of its better known stars, part 3 concentrates on pursue between Sheriff Buford T. Justice from previous iterations and The Bandit, played by the stuntman turned actor, turned director, Jerry Reed. While he can perform and direct nice stunts, the comedic attempts constantly fall short.

Chases and the stunts are better than previously, so if those are your thing you might find something to like here. For the rest of us, the final Smokey movie is just a deadweight piece of celluloid.

80s-o-meter: 21%

Total: 4%