#1689 Halloween 2022: Night of the Demon (1980)

Night of the Demon is one of those quite uneven low budget horror movies that I did not rate highly when watching through it, and it was only after reading the reviews that I learned that the movie enjoyed a cult status among the horror fans.

Basically a slasher with big foot – in other words a guy with patches of fake hair glued on him – Night of the Demon’s status escaped me, and only real positive thing I could say about it how the movie gets good kind of weird at times and at least tries something a bit new with its story of weird relationship between the big foot and a hermit woman.

For the gore hounds there’s dodgy killing effects to enjoy with perhaps the worst fake blood ever seen on the silver screen – I’m guessing cheap tomato juice. These kill scenes – or the story behind them – is perhaps the most interesting aspect or trivia of the movie, as most them were shot and posthumously added into the film by its producer completely as surprise of the director, a move which probably contributed quite heavily to the movie’s cult status.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 22%

#1680 Halloween 2022: Saturn 3 (1980)

Almost ten years into having Halloween features and still haven’t reviewed Saturn 3?? Well, to my defence it is a British movie after all but featuring US leads and undoubtedly better than the majority of similar Hollywood movies of the era, so it definitely still does earn its place here.

The film takes place in a remote station in Saturn’s third moon aka Tethys, aka Saturn 3, where a pair of a man and female scientists (Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett) receive a visitor from earth, Captain Benson (Harvey Keitel) whom we witness earlier assassinating the person who was to originally arrive at the station. There he starts to build a helper robot with an organic brain that he programs using a direct brain link connected to himself. As it goes, the robot picks the negative traits from him, including a crush to the female scientist and it is downhill from thereon.

The movie looks great and cinematic, but not 80s, nor 70s but strangely almost 60s or 50s in style. Having Kirk Douglas in the cast furthermore strengthens this feeling, but in this case I don’t really mind as it all works out quite well. The small cast is also a triumph with Keitel performing the role of a antagonist perfectly, Fawcett making for a perfect love interest that I can’t blame Benson falling on, and finally Kirk Douglas – already 64 at the time but in amazingly good shape, perfect for the role – whom you just could not have replaced and have the movie feel the same.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 81%

#1675 The Competition (1980)

The first thing that strikes from The Competition is the love and devotion the team shows for its subject, competitive piano playing. The actors have been instructed and trained carefully, perform their roles as piano virtuosos very well and at least for me superficially the way the competitions are carried out seems quite plausible, and without those facepalm moments.

Although not one of the movies he is most known for, Richard Dreyfuss once again reminds me why he is one of my favourite actors of the era. Amy Irving whom I recently saw in Crossing Delancey is a good pair for Dreyfuss, and them getting involved in the strange mix of mutual interest, friendship and rivalry does not seem too far fetched.

The Competition sidesteps the obvious pitfalls of ending up boring (due to its classical music theme that’s not actually thrilling), or being untrue to the same theme, and for this reason it’s a success.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 74%

#1647 Die Laughing (1980)

A horribly disconnected effort, Die Laughing throws in a little bit of everything into the mix without ever finding its own tone of voice.

How disconnected? It genuinely felt like watching an episode of some random late 70s afternoon TV series that just keeps aimlessly going on, and on, and one. The boring action is padded with even more boring sections of the main character performing songs in auditions – another aspect of the movie that felt totally artificial and plastered on.

Die Laughing can really only be recommended to those who want to relive the worst of the 70s television.

80s-o-meter: 12%

Total: 2%

#1645 Atlantic City aka Atlantic City, USA (1980)

Atlantic City is a movie about transition periods and change. Sally is learning the ropes to be a dealer to be able to leave to Monaco to work on a casino. His former husband, now with Sally’s sister has arrived at the city to makes some money selling drugs, and they run into Lou, a small time old crook looking forward to finally becoming the big shot gangster with the money and a woman he could show off to his Florida pals.

And all this is taking place in Atlantic City that is going through sizeable changes where hotels and casinos of the old glory days are demolished to make room for new buildings.

The real gem in Atlantic City is the interesting array of characters with real yet a bit childish and silly aspirations, and in this sense the movie manages to positively surprise time after time: we don’t have to relate or even like the characters to be able to sympathise with their dreams.

80s-o-meter: 63%

Total: 87%

#1632 Carny (1980)

I’ve always been a theme park aficionado, and as such I’ve a soft spot for carnivals and fairs, and similarly themed popular media. It was therefore a delight to see Carny during its first 30 minutes.

By that time many good and interesting things had taken place, and both Gary Busey’s and Jodie Foster’s interesting characters, and their relationship was established successfully. But as the carnival takes off from the town with Jodie Foster with it, so does the plot, going into all sorts of needless directions, none of which as interesting than what the movie had already going in its first minutes.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 52%

#1623 The Baltimore Bullet (1980)

It would seem that most of the pool hustler movies have also a strong scoundrel theme to them. So is the case also with The Baltimore Bullet.

The movie is pretty much unknown and does not hold a candle to the iconic hustler movies, but it’s a nice little exercise made better by the inclusion of a strong female protagonist, and Omar Sharif as the heinous pool shark.

A plus for the movie for actually depicting solid pool tricks, mostly performed by the actors themselves.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 61%

#1616 The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980)

Politically incorrect in multiple ways these days, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu depicts a quirky asian mastermind criminal, played by Peter Sellers, chased after a quirky inspector, also played by Sellers.

Movie feels visually and thematically old beyond its years – like something made in the 60s – and there’s only little value in viewing it these days. The Fu Manchu character has its moments, but anything that you see here is better made in for example the later Austin Power movies. Clearly made for a showcase for Sellers’ versatile character actor skills, neither of the character he plays here are amongst his best, and in many ways feel like a mix of some of his other roles.

The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu is probably the most remembered for being Sellers’ last movie, before his untimely death at the age of 54.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 47%

#1611 Shogun Assassin (1980)

A Japanese movie – or rather a mix of two – there’s a good reason why Shogun Assassin should be a part of this blog. The movie is combined from two Japanese movies of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga series originally shot in the early 1970s.

The project to cut the two movies together for Northern American release was a brainchild of Robert Houston and David Weisman who were the fans of the original movies. The movie got more attention a few years later as the home video release that got almost banned due to its graphic depictions of violence, gained a solid cult status and has been since featured in pop culture and movies.

The movie itself? Loved it. It’s stylish and moody without any camp factor often associated with ninja movies to it. The unlikely sword hero is a total badass and the fighting scenes are choreographed in a beautiful way, and I can totally understand why so many people often re-visit this movie.

80s-o-meter: 0%

Total: 87%

#1572 Halloween 2021: Toxic Zombies aka Bloodeaters aka Forest of Fear (1980)

One more low budget indie zombie movie to shy away from, Toxic Zombies does little or nothing better than any of its contemporary rivals.

A pesticide is dropped on top of a few teenage campers, turning them into – you guessed it – blood lusting zombies. Typically with these kind of cheap productions the primus motor has been ”that weird neighbour kid” into gory special effects, who’s then all grown up and releases that one uninspired cookie cutter horror movie with horrid production quality, but inventive use of special effects.

Toxic Zombies doesn’t even have that going for it. Story wise there’s a bit more effort to it than other indie horror films, and the mood gets ok at times, but really, there’s nothing here to phone home about.

80s-o-meter: 57%

Total: 26%

#1557 Below the Belt (1980)

A talent scout talks a waitress into entering a sherry show wrestling team. She befriends this motley crew of journeymen, travels around with them, and finally is put against her arch enemy as the so called climax of the movie.

A Rocky this isn’t, nor is it All The Marbles that at least had the star power and indisputable charisma of Peter Falk going for it. In fact, if All The Marbles was a disappointing movie, Below the Belt does it all in a little more disappointing and banal way.

The most interesting part of below the belt is its love story between two worn out wrestlers in the crossroads of their lives where one wants to go in one direction – and one to another.

The one without wrestling.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 31%

#1552 Stardust Memories (1980)

Although I do enjoy Woody Allen’s writing – he is the only author that makes the rich neurotic self centred adults caught in their first world problems movies tolerable – Stardust Memories and its insight into the life of the rich and famous seems more targeted to a selected group of his New York intellectual friends to enjoy, rather than something I could really relate with.

Allen is being his base neurotic screen persona and inconstantly disillusioned in his relationships with the fellow men, especially his love interests. And in this movie there are many of them.

You can’t blame the writing from not being smart; it is – and that if anything is what makes the movie enjoyable. But I left Stardust Memories thinking that a movie needs something more than just endless stream of wittiness to be really enjoyable.

80s-o-meter: 45%

Total: 58%

#1549 The First Deadly Sin (1980)

Although Frank Sinatra did a notable career in movies, I’ve either consciously or unconsciously steered away from them, so I did not have any sort of expectations (in good nor bad) towards Sinatra in his comeback movie role. And I liked what I saw. Sinatra makes a great character as an ageing detective in the last leg of his career aiming to solve one more case.

As far as thrillers go, this is your basic early 80s stuff, easily overshadowed in wittiness by almost anything seen today. What makes the movie worth one’s while is Sinatra’s character who is no super cop by any standard, but much more human than almost any other detective I’ve seen on the silver screen, and it’s truly refreshing to see this kind of writing that does fall back into the cliches of the genre – like, whiskey sipping detectives surrounded by femme fatales – but instead actively plays away from them.

Here’s a detective who is pressured by his personal events and work place, and makes multiple mistakes along the way, resulting in a much more three dimensional and relatable character, much more noteworthy than the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 70%

#1548 First Family (1980)

Sometimes the political correctness of the 2020s just goes overboard, and 80s movies can be a good counterweight to all that. But as First Family goes out to prove, it’s also a very recommendable thing we’ve moved ahead in many aspects.

It’s the dull sex jokes and racist overtone that makes this one uninteresting to watch. Not that I would mind either, but it’s the uninventive lowest common denominator approach to both that I find mind numbingly stupid.

Bob Newhart plays a president who is willing to sacrifice his family and a portion of the American people for a savage third world nation in exchange for giant vegetables, while Gilda Radner performs as her daughter trying to get laid throughout the movie.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 15%

#1540 Defiance aka Terror in Brooklyn (1980)

Tommy is a wandering seaman who arrives at early 80s New York to wait for a new ship to take him in. Meanwhile he find a house in a small worn out neighbourhood terrorised by a hoodlum gang called The Souls.

As you might have guessed, Defiance draws its inspiration from Death Wish and its numerous heirs: the main character inadvertently clashes with the gang, but remains hesitant to really stand up against them.

After seeing many similar gang movies, The Souls seems pretty lame bunch of misfits – almost caricatures – in their silly outfits, an do not really feel imposing enough to warrant a violent revenge. And unlike Death Wish, Defiance does not really deliver one. Oh, and if you’re into Jan-Michael Vincent, you might want to learn that Defiance is among the best, or if not the best movie of the decade for Vincent, before his unfortunate downward spiral.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 48%

#1508 Raise the Titanic (1980)

The movie knows what its money shot is: it uses minutes to show the surfacing of the Titanic model from under the sea shot from a dozen of different angles in one of the most expensive special effect sequences in a movie at the time.

And it pays off; this is why we sat down to see the Raise the Titanic for in the first place. Otherwise the movie is not bad an adventure movie at all. It manages to sell us the idea of being able to lift up the iconic ship from the bottom of the sea and gives a good reasoning for doing so. Although the movie does feel dated, being already 41 years old, it’s definitely ahead of most movies of the 1980 and in a way a promise of all the great summer blockbusters we saw in the 80s.

Watch closely as the ship finally surfaces to catch a hilarious easter egg put there by the effects team: two crewmen still onboard, frantically pumping water off the deck.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 74%

#1492 Island Claws (1980)

I’m not quite sure if it’s an accidental or intentional, but Island Claws is a flawless homage to the 1950s gigantic monster movies.

In fact, it totally looks and feels as if some old black-and-white movie had been AI coloured posthumously. The small village, idyllic little bar, main male leads and the research faculty are all charmingly familiar.

It’s therefore a shame such a nice set up is wasted on a totally average monster movie. I would’ve much preferred seeing some kind of a thriller/drama taking place in this same setting, instead of this low-quality monster nonsense.

80s-o-meter: 4%

Total: 50%

#1483 Resurrection (1980)

What Resurrection has going for it is an interesting premise where a woman discovers she has developed a healing powers after getting nearly killed in a car crash. How the movie handles dramatic structure after this is bit of a hit and miss though.

Her self discovery after the accident, first realisation of the power, relationship with the community and difficult relationship with her father are all very interesting themes, but the latter two could’ve been explored much further. Instead the story drifts off to involve her difficult relations ship with her lover along with religious themes that are far less interesting.

Ellen Burstyn has been flying totally under my radar despite her winning the Oscar for best Actress in academy awards on 1975 with Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. In Resurrection she is simply wonderful, portraying a person with warm supernatural power in her without overdoing or overselling it one bit.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 71%

#1448 North Sea Hijack (1980)

North Sea Hijack is the kind of perfect little action thriller one would’ve been super glad to find in the first small video rental stores in the early 80s.

The lead Sir Roger Moore brings a lot of the same charism and screen presence he possesses as Bond, but manages to make his character much more interesting given the jagged edges and peculiarities that the manuscript provides. His womanising trait remains in this movie as well, but instead of trying to get every woman between the sheets, he treats them equally to men – if not always quite respectfully.

The setup of criminals holding an oil rig as a hostage works well, and Anthony Perkins does a wonderful acting work as the criminal mastermind of high intelligence, but manages to avoid the pitfall of going overboard with the characterisation.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 86%

#1447 The Alien Dead (1980)

A subpar zombie movie disguised as a subpar scifi movie, The Alien Dead tries to sell a concept of living dead sort of aliens living in the bottom of a swamp who devour local fauna and humans.

Directed by Fred Olen Ray also known from abominations such as The Phantom Empire and Biohazard, The Alien Dead is bad even by his standards. Not only is The Alien Dead super uninteresting, but every imaginable technical shortcoming is to be found here as well.

80s-o-meter: 40%

Total: 9%