#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 But from today’s point of view the movie is unfortunately just too outdated to recommend to anyone previously unfamiliar with it.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%

#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%

#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%