#1097 Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again (1980)

Here’s the part of this project that doesn’t interest me much: Watching subpar sequels to 70s movies I have any interest whatsoever to start with.

The original 1977 Smokey and the Bandit was something of a movie equivalent of an Indy cars race that targets precisely that same audience, and Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again continues on that same track. Both movies star Burt Reynolds as the macho male lead, but one could argue that the actual biggest role as well as the top billing should belong to the cars and the stunts they’re involved in.

Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again was not a movie for me, and my guess is that its appeal was already gone in the 90s, let alone today. On the positive side the movie does have a lighthearted tone to it and it even manages to provide few chuckles, thanks to Dom DeLuise’s great comedic improvisation skills.

80s-o-meter: 23%

Total: 21%

#1096 Serial (1980)

Serial turned out to be one hard movie to review.

On the other hand I enjoyed the snappy writing and dialogue, as well as the characters that have an exceptionally low amount of irritating personal traits for a comedy about middle aged adults wrestling with their relationship problems. But as the movie pokes fun on late 70s new age spiritualism, sexual liberation and self-help movements, I realise that I’m missing most of the points of reference to really understand and have a laugh at them.

Most of the reviews of the movie by people who were there seem to agree that this is a collection of jabs that actually find their target. So, if a satirical look into the bay area post hippie, pre yuppie lifestyle interests you, Serial is probably your best bet for it.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 55%

#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%

#1066 How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980)

How to Beat the High Cost of Living has been the longest project for me to watch so far. I remember picking it first up over ten years ago, watching the first 30 minutes and forgetting to finish it and then a few years later giving it another try only to leave it unfinished again.

I kind of understand why this was. Although the movie is not that by itself, there’s just nothing engaging enough here to keep the interest up; three housewifes struggle with money problems, set up a heist and pull it off with a few mishaps along the way, none of them too amusing.

The cast is strong with the strong woman trio as the lead and Dabney Coleman in a supporting role – but all of them have starred in much better movies since.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 46%

#1056 The Hollywood Knights (1980)

The Hollywood Knights follows a gang high school fraternity of the post–World War II baby boom generation during one long halloween night of 1965 as they go around playing nasty pranks to teachers, policemen and fellow students.

Considering that the pranks aren’t particularly funny, nor creative – pissing to a punch bowl is as high brow as it gets – they are showcased far too much in the movie. The real human interest story of the young couple played by Tony Danza and Michelle Pfeiffer is bypassed with a few quick shots and does not get the attention it deserves. Same goes for the story of Jimmy, one of the Hollywood Knights, who’s enlisted and heading to Vietnam unbeknownst of the horrors that await there. Although this part of the movie is better handled, I would’ve liked to see more even more emphasis on this side of the story.

What makes this movie is not its plot, characters nor even its humour, but the way it successfully invites the viewer to be a part of this one wild night as one of the Hollywood Knights.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 68%

#1052 Hero at Large (1980)

Hero at Large is an innocent little tale of a aspiring actor who tries to make the ends meet by posing as a super hero, until he one day stumbles upon a robbery that he stops. He then finds a new direction to his out of stepping in to help people while getting intimate with the lady next door.

It’s a movie that wouldn’t be made today – heck, it probably wouldn’t warrant even a single TV episode: Writing is sloppy and none of the event really make too much sense or follow logic. Other than the movie logic, that is.

Hero at Large is something of a relic of its time, but at least it’s a good hearted and benignant one, for all that it’s worth.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 59%

#1041 The Hunter (1980)

I’ve had The Hunter movie laying around for a few years now and based on the cover image I always mistook it for a action film with a cop trailing a killer. What we got here instead is a loose biography of an aging bounty hunter Ralph ”Papa” Thorson who goes after (often petty) criminals who’ve skipped on their bail.

Yes, I’ve never heard about Thorson either. He wasn’t exactly a widely known character in his days, much less these days. If his life or person were anything interesting, The Hunter sadly fails to capture any of that. Steve McQueen is his charismatic self but fails to be nothing more than Steve McQueen and seems a far cry from the big framed, grizzly Thorson. We get the idea that he is a bad driver and that his young wife is expecting a baby that Thorson doesn’t really want to have, but other than that, all the really interesting bits about him – like his colourful working history – is left out of the movie.

The Hunter goes down in history primarily for being the last movie for Steve McQueen who sadly passed away with cancer after wrapping up the film. He was 50 years old at the time.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 48%

#1040 Battle Creek Brawl aka The Big Brawl (1980)

Jackie Chan appears in his first english speaking role in Battle Creek Brawl, a comedic martial arts movie with disappointing plot and an uninspired 1930s setting. Chan himself already shows some of the promise in the imaginatively humorous fighting choreographies that later become his trademark, but it’s those same more recent movies that make the moves seen here kind of basic.

What I did like was how the actual Texas brawl tournament was setup, with an imaginative array of fighters that reminded me in a good way of many classic fighting arcade games like Yie Ar Kung-Fu and Street Fighter series, both of which might have takes some cues from this movie.

Despite the few good fighting bits, as a movie Battle Creek Brawl is a pretty tired show that has a bit too much whiff from the past – both the 30s and late 70s – for me to really enjoy.

80s-o-meter: 32%

Total: 38%

#1024 The Private Eyes (1980)

The Private Eyes presents us with a classic mansion whodunnit comedy that makes for a surprisingly entertaining watch.

It’s a slapstick comedy making a solid imitation of the similar movies from the famous comedic duos of the yesteryear, namely Abbot and Costello. Starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts who made a series of comedies together starting from 1975, The Private Eyes is their best known movie, and also their final full length feature film together.

The movie is made with the young audience in mind with spooky bits comparable to an episode of Scooby Doo. The jokes are somewhat tame and obvious, but performed in an entertaining way by the duo.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 68%

#996 Roadie (1980)

Roadie is a somewhat typical early 80s yippee-ki-yay comedy in the vein of Burt Reynolds, featuring some Texan backdrops, ten gallon hats, saloon fights and wacky car chases – luckily just one in this case.

By far the strongest aspect here is the young Meat Loaf whose natural and unforced screen presence is actually much more watchable than that of his many contemporary peers. It is there somewhat of a shame that Roadie remained his only leading role for the 80s.

There are a few notable cameos here as well with the likes of Alice Cooper, Blondie and Roy Orbison making an appearances, but their appeal is limited to how your fandom of them, and don’t alone warrant watching through the movie.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 57%

#994 Somewhere in Time (1980)

Christopher Reeve’s first movie since the hugely successful 1978 Superman, Somewhere in Time is a romantic drama with a time travel twist to it.

The movie relies heavily on its time travel bit and if that concept was stripped out of the movie, there just wouldn’t be much of a plot going on here: There’s the somewhat forbidden love between the two leads of different generations and the only real threat between the two lovers comes from the overprotective manager who just can’t provide much of a drama and the only real conflict between them is ultimately resolved with just a shrug of a shoulder.

The movie totally flopped at the box office, but has developed a cult following with the fans going as far as joining together to celebrate the historical dates presented in the movie.

80s-o-meter: 33%

Total: 51%

#982 The Long Riders (1980)

I’m usually not into westerns, but I found The Long Riders interesting and actually a pretty decent movie. It’s because it is in reality more of a biography that just happens to take place in wild west era rather than an actual western with all the tired clichés that go with the genre.

The movie documents the life of Jesse James and Cole Younger, and their outlaw gang that performed a number of robberies in Missouri and in the surrounding states. And it does so with just a little glamouring the criminal lifestyle and the imaginary code of honour that goes with it. The movie de-mythologizes the often told story and James, Younger and their brothers are depicted like they were, ranchers and farmers who had families and children, and who’d go do a robbery and later celebrate a successful heist in a bar enjoying whisky and prostitutes. Sure, the movie somewhat demonises the Pinkertons, but does it only to give some viewpoints why the general opinion and the books and movies might’ve been so sympathetic to the outlaw gang rather than taking the side of the detective agency.

One of the best known about aspects of the movie is how an actual sets of actor brothers are cast to portray the family members in the movie and as gimmicky as that sounds it actually works out beautifully and even without giving it any thought the connection between the brothers works on a deeper level than only the pictures can tell.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 85%

#975 Halloween 2018: The Fog (1980)

The Fog is John Carpenter’s first theatrical release of the 80s and a follow-up to his hugely popular slasher Halloween (1978) that pretty much started the endless stream of slashers in the early 80s, still pretty much outperforming all of them. I probably don’t need to annotate his later filmography of the decade to make my point that whenever he’s at it, solid gold is to be expected.

With this background considered, The Fog is somewhat a miss and certainly doesn’t come near his later horror classics. While the outdated look of Halloween suited it well, The Fog and its effects haven’t aged as well, and it certainly falls far behind the FX genius seen for example in The Thing.

That being said there’s still quite a lot to like about the movie. The story is written in the vein of a good old camp side spooky story and while the movie is never that scary, Carpenter makes the best out of the undead seamen by keeping them veiled in fog and shown as silhouettes, which very much works adds to the dramatic effect and definitely works for the benefit of the film.

Unlike the rest of Carpenter’s film catalogue The Fog is a hard one to recommend, but in comparison to its early 80s competition it still holds its own.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 64%

#974 Halloween 2018: The Hearse (1980)

The award for biggest tease of this year has to go to The Hearse.

There’s a great amount of suspense from the very start of the movie through getting to the remote rural house inherited from the mysterious aunt, and the uneasy feeling of something evil lurking around the corner is established exceptionally well here. But what happens next is mostly a whole lot of nothing. There are some dream sequences, a Hearse and mysterious driver and some exorcism – elements that are mediocre at best – and none of them are really followed through in the script.

To add insult to the injury, the film wraps up with a belly flop of an ending that manages to feel even more disappointing than the movie itself.

80s-o-meter: 64%

Total: 38%

#964 Halloween 2018: The Fog (1980)

The Fog is John Carpenter’s first movie coming to the eighties, and his next feature film after his breakthrough film Halloween.

Co-written by Carpenter, the plot, mysterious fog element and the setting in a small town gives out a very Stephen King-esque mood to the film. The fog element is menacing and well build and the minimalistic soundtrack (composed by Carpenter himself once again) feels more fresh than the movie itself.

Essentially a zombie movie with a crew of undead seamen – revenants if you will – appearing in a could of fog to terrorise a small coastal village the types of scares presented here are very close to those in the zombie movie genre; there are slowly walking corpses and hands reaching out of the fog and windows to make away with the living. But, what Carpenter does very well in comparison to the bulk zombi movies is the way he represents them here: Always shown as silhouettes, covered with thick, oozing fog and with the brightly glowing red eyes as their most distinctive feature. It’s an economic and stylish choice very effective still to date.

High in mood, low in scares, The Fog is a likeable and entertaining little ghost story that doesn’t quite reach he grandeur of the other movies in Carpenter’s filmography.

80s-o-meter: 77%

Total: 72%

#961 Halloween 2018: Mother’s Day (1980)

A cult classic favourite of many – including one Eli RothMother’s Day is a trashy horror exploitation comedy of two brothers who kidnap and torture three women to pleasure their demented mother.

The fans of the movie seem to be vocal about the movie being misunderstood and ahead of the time. Personally I don’t see it. The rape exploitation revenge genre was already established back in the 1978 in I Spit on Your Grave, and Mother’s Day replicates the same isolated and remote cabin in the woods setup and adds the mother, two hillbillies and a paper thin layer of comedy. The comedy part consists of exploring the slobbishness of the two inbred brothers by showing them consuming canned cheese by squirting it directly in their mouths, and scenes of the scared women smashing a tv set to the antagonist’s head so that his head is visible through the tv screen. Laughters are non-existent and the comedy layer just feels like a poor excuse to justify doing an almost exact copy of another movie.

It’s a pretty poor production all in all; blood is screaming red paint and decapitated heads unconvincing papier-mâché mess. Troma Entertainment had a good decade coming up, but Mother’s Day is just void of the creativity some of the later movies show.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 24%

#896 The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark (1980)

As I’ve excluded all the kids only movies from this project, I was on the verge whether The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark should be here. This Disney Productions’ movie is made in the same vein as the company’s other whole family adventures, like Herbie The Love Bug series, Blackbeard’s Ghost and The Absent-Minded Professor, and as such, the movie’s style feels outdated for a 1980 film.

Given all the legacy, the movie fares surprisingly well despite its strong whiff from the past. The exotic Gilligan’s Island style setting proofs to be an atmospheric one and Elliot Gould manages to keep the show running as the average Joe Pilot; grumpy but with a heart of gold.

The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark is predictable, uninspired and an outdated product and I can’t really point out much of the things I like here. But, it could be due my non-existing interest or the overall low expectations that I ended up enjoying the movie a bit more than it actually deserves.

80s-o-meter: 47%

Total: 52%

#887 Hopscotch (1980)

Hopscotch, for those unfamiliar with the activity, is that grid hopping game children play during the summer. Here the term refers to a wild-goose chase between CIA officials and a retired agent writing his whistle blower memoirs.

In terms of being a thriller – even if it’s a comedic one – the movie is pretty lame deal by today’s standards: The baddies are unduly goofy and mostly just end up tumbling against each other instead of ever posing an actual threat. Hopscotch visits various European locations to give it that international agent feeling; something I never really cared for in American movies.

Seeing Walter Matthau in action is always a treat, and I’ve really grown to admire his talent of effortlessly wearing whatever material is thrown his way. If anything here, it’s Matthau’s performance that remains the only reason why Hopscotch might be worth your time.

80s-o-meter: 56%

Total: 59%

#884 The Nude Bomb (1980)

An exercise in unfunny, Nude Bomb follows the many mishaps of Agent 86 – Maxwell Smart – from the 1960s TV series Get Smart.

The humour consists either of catch phrases like ’Would you believe it’ and ’Missed it by that much’ that totally escape those not familiar with the series, or slapstick comedy of Maxwell tumbling around the room, breaking various objects along the way.

The Nude Bomb is devoid of laughter, and an endless stream of failed attempts for humour. Get Smart, Again!, a weak but still much more preferable sequel was released in 1989.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 17%

#881 Ordinary People (1980)

I’ve grown suspicious of Oscar winners over the years. If the level of expectation isn’t set too high, the sheer grandeur of the movie just doesn’t come across. Awarded for best picture, actor in a supporting role, director and writing in the 1981 Academy Awards, Ordinary People is luckily an exception to the rule.

It’s a story about a family torn apart by the accidental death of the older one of the two brothers, followed by the other boy’s attempted suicide. Since then the family is pretending to have move on, but the rooms are full of elephants and unspoken issues that are never addressed in order to avoid shattering what little there is left of the unit. It’s only after Conrad – played to perfection by the young Timothy Hutton – comes to accept the fact that her mother doesn’t love him anymore that the scars are finally torn open and ready to heal.

Starting slow and small, Ordinary People grows to be one of the most mesmerising and heartbreaking stories I’ve seen in a while, and one of those rare movies that make one feel like giving a standing ovation as the end credits start rolling.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 96%