#1345 The Return (1980)

Everything in The Return feels indifferent and passionless as if none of the actors nor the team itself really wanted to do the movie.

Jan-Michael Vincent is more busy sipping beer than acting most of the time and Cybill Shepherd (of the later Moonlighting fame)looks like she’s contemplating on finding herself a new agent.

The Return is a movie that didn’t need to be made as it serves no real purpose and does not bring anything to the table that hasn’t been done better before or since.

80s-o-meter: 67%

Total: 22%

#1344 Cuba Crossing (1980)

A bunch of rogue USA soldiers set out to assassinate the communist leader of Cuba in Cuba Crossing.

This would not be such an issue if the movie itself had something going on for it, but it’s unfortunately an outdated, inconsistent, uninteresting mess that remains stale most of the running time, and gets somewhat interesting only after the plot twist in the third act.

I try to steer away from talking about technical aspects of a movie, but with Cuba Crossing the lack of decent cinematography cannot be unaddressed. Not only is the shooting amateurish with over/under exposed scenes and overall bad cinematographic choices, the movie completely misses out of taking advantage of the tropical Key West landscapes and mostly looks dull as a dishwasher.

80s-o-meter: 45%

Total: 17%

#1331 Inside Moves (1980)

I don’t consider jotting your average average superficial tearjerker movie much of a skill, and I’m pretty confident I would be capable of writing one of those myself in no time. I’m therefore always in awe when I see someone doing it in the right way and coming up with a story that not only feels true but also cares so deeply for its characters that it doesn’t sell them short for some cheap drama.

Inside Moves, based on the Todd Walton’s book of the same name and directed by Richard Donner is one of those rare movies. It starts where one life ends as Roary (John Savage) jumps to his death from the top of a building. After being patched together he then limps his stiff body to a local tavern where he meets up with diverse bunch of characters for a game of poker that changes the course of his life.

The movie is one of the a rare masterpieces that make you happy, sad, angry and hopeful – sometimes all of these within just one minute.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 92%

#1306 Sitting Ducks (1980)

There’s an aspect to the story telling in Sitting Ducks that works and another one that lacks a bit. What works is the improvisation of the dialogue between the characters, something very typical for Henry Jaglom’s films.

Where Sitting Ducks falls short is the plot that is just plain silly, and frankly, I expected much more out of the ’big surprise’ in the act 3.

Zack Norman and Michael Emil make for a good anti-heroes in the lead roles, with surprising traits to them, not least of which being having the appearance of a middle aged losers while being pretty ripped (for the time) as they strip to show off their physique at the hotel pool.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 55%

#1305 Bronco Billy (1980)

Bronco Billy is in many ways very similar to Clint Eastwood’s other films of the era, like Every Which Way but Loose or Any Which Way You Can in depicting himself as an everyday dude who road trips around and gets into occasional classes with the locals, or the authorities.

Made purely to entertain, the plot itself feels secondary in Bronco Billy, and the movie mostly concentrates on showcasing Eastwood and his captivating screen presence. Compared to some other films he’s made at the time, what makes Bronco Billy interesting is the way that Eastwood reveals personal flaws in the main character, depicting him as the despotic leader of the western show, but also subjects him to some humiliating encounters with the local law.

For anyone viewing it for the first time, Bronco Billy Makes for a very easy movie to watch, but is less likely to leave any lasting impression.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 61%

#1301 The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood aka Hollywood Blue (1980)

The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood is a soulless production that makes an endless list of disappointing design choices, starting from assuming the viewer has any knowledge of the Happy Hooker character first seen in the 1975 movie of the same name.

The movie tries to sell itself as a raunchy sexploitation comedy with a promise to see a few glimpses of mammaries, but really, you would be better off obtaining any of the porn movies of the era with a plot if humour and naked skin is what you’re after.

Adam West (of the campy 60s Batman fame) can be seen suffering in one of the lead roles, contemplating on the number of bad career moves that ended him with this movie.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 0%

#1231 Nightkill (1980)

Looking like an episode of Dallas (the lead Jaclyn Smith is best known for her role as one of the original Charlie’s Angels) Nightkill defies all the odds by being a very original, and surprisingly interesting take on a woman caught in murderous love triangle and a net of lies that gets more tangled the more she struggles to get out of it.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 64%

#1229 The Idolmaker (1980)

Based on the life of rock promoter/producer Bob Marcucci, The Idolmaker tells a story of a musician who after failing to become a music idol himself, ends up a producer talented in finding and sparring the next generation of stars.

While the movie and its late 50s, early 60s nostalgia wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, Peter Gallagher as the lead makes a perfectly magnetic performance as Caesare, who makes a transformation from a mere busboy to a star with enough charism to fill a big stage.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 61%

#1206 The Jazz Singer (1980)

Based on the 1927 movie of the same name, The Jazz Singer depicts a 40-year old jewish cantor rebelling against his father in a story that did not beg to be told.

It’s not exactly a good sign if during a remarkably bad musical movie it’s the music parts that you end up wanting to fast forward.

Most people that have seen The Jazz Singer seem to agree that it’s worth watching only for Neil Diamond’s songs and performances. As someone to whom the monumental success of mr. Diamond remains one of the biggest mysteries of popular music, I don’t have even that.

80s-o-meter: 7%

Total: 3%

#1198 The Gong Show Movie (1980)

The Gong Show, a weird talent show was something of a TV phenomenon in the late 70s, and The Gong Show Movie here is a fictive look into the life of the show’s host Chuck Barry, and a semi-fictive look into the show itself, including some bits edited out of the TV programme.

While the movie itself does not have much merits, it got me interested in the show itself and I ended up watching a few episodes uploaded to the Youtube. There’s admittedly something mesmerising in the show and if you are brave enough to want to take a look at the movie, you will likely get a slightly better mileage out of it if you check a few episodes beforehand.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 38%

#1187 Halloween 2019: The Boogey Man (1980)

Here’s another horror movie that doesn’t know exactly where it’s going and just wanders around pointlessly introducing one nonsensical concept after another. The pinnacle of this nonsense in The Boogey Man is a cracked mirror freeing an evil spirit. And then some killings take place.

While it’s nothing new for a horror movie to try and make killers out of the most idiotic inanimate objects, it takes a vast amount skill to pull it off in a believable way.

And it’s pretty much here that The Boogey Man ultimately fails as a movie.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 19%

#1179 Halloween 2019: Don’t Answer the Phone! (1980)

A typical trashy exploitation of the early 80s, Don’t Answer the Phone! does provide interesting setup of a serial killer calling to a radio psychologist and tormenting her with descriptions of his evil doings, but in the end does very little else in a satisfactory way.

Instead for opting for well build suspension, the movie focuses on providing lots of on-screen sadism that does very little in providing scares, but just concentrates on giving the blood hounds out there the gore and the agony that they came in for.

If trashy gonzo slashers are your thing, Don’t Answer the Phone! more than delivers – but if it is actual horror you’re after, you will want to look elsewhere.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 32%

#1178 Halloween 2019: Demented (1980)

A violent rape gets a woman institutionalised and later suffering from PTSD with constant nightmares in Demented, one of the revenge exploitation movies done in the vein of I Spit on Your Grave.

And it’s not a strong show. Demented feels quite a lot like an early 80s porn movie, and a brief Googling soon reveals why: The male lead Harry Reems was one of the most well known porn actors of the time.

Despite the grave theme the movie is bit on a boring side with most of the interest in waiting on how the husband’s gaming with his extramarital affair plays out. There’s a slight payback in the end for sticking around as the movie gets pretty absurd and wanders deep into the black comedy territory.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 61%

#1132 The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

I’m trying to think up the positives about The Watcher in the Woods.

First of all I love the title, which really sets up the mystery and the mood in the right way, and I also like how the movie tried to achieve something a little different in the horror genre. But the movie never managed to build up the suspense nor the atmosphere in a way that I suspect that the original 1976 novel does.

If I was ten years old and the year was 1980, The Watcher in the Woods might’ve been just the ticket. But from today’s point of view the movie is unfortunately just too outdated to recommend to anyone previously unfamiliar with it.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 41%

#1131 Midnight Madness (1980)

An early 80s adventure hunt movie in the vein of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (and its many clones), Midnight Madness replays the same formula of multiple teams racing against each other, trying to outsmart and outrun each others to the finish.

I’m usually sucker for the genre and the little interest I had in the movie was because of this. But everything Midnight Madness does, it does a little bit worse than its competitors: there are no big celebrity names here, no cameos, no great landmarks nor road movie elements to be found here.

If you’re new to the genre, you might still enjoy Midnight Madness. For similar, slightly better versions of the era, check out The Cannonball Run or even the 2001 Rat Race.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 60%

#1129 Melvin and Howard (1980)

Melvin and Howard is a good example how movies already changed from seventies to the early eighties, and from there to date.

The movie first starts with Melvin picking up a stranger in the desert who later claims to be one Howard Hughes, much to Melvin’s amusement. During the next hour after this event the movie concentrates to draw a picture of Melvin Dummar as an all-American dreamer and a high stakes loser who seems to have all the odds stacked up against him. It’s only in the few last minutes to the film when after Howard Hughes passes away that we see the actual meat of the story when Melvin claims to have received a will from a stranger giving him one-sixteenth of Hughes’ heritage.

Everything from the movies pacing to the themes and focus may seem odd from todays point of view when, but it didn’t stop Melvin and Howard becoming a huge critical success back in the early 80s. Considering its contemporaries Melvin and Howard is not a bad movie, but it the critics wouldn’t give it the time of day had it been released today.

80s-o-meter: 31%

Total: 37%

#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%