#1137 Enter the Ninja (1981)

Well color me me surprised. I watched Enter the Ninja totally randomly and I was surprised to find out that not only does it stars Franco Nero from the The Salamander, the very previous movie I watched, but that its his very previous movie release. That’s a first for me so far.

Taking its name from the iconic Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon, Enter the Ninja is often credited for being the catalyst for the endless stream of ninja assassin movies of the early 80s. But on top of showing some impressive Ninjutsu moves by Shô Kosugi, the movie has somewhat limited entertainment factor to it, given you haven’t seen it before.

I watched the remastered Bluray version, and somehow I suspect that the movie lost something in the translation, and that this is one of those few movies that gets a better mileage when viewed from a worn out VHS tape instead of a flawless source.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 61%

#1136 The Salamander (1981)

Shot in Rome, following an italian policeman (played by an italian actor) who investigates murders that seem to be intertwined with italian politics, The Salamander is in many ways more italian than some of the italian movies.

In fact, if the character spoke italian, the movie would totally pass as the real deal.

The plot of the movie is somewhat laborious and unstimulating to keep up with, and the movie looks and feels like many mid-70s European action movies. Thick-moustached Franco Nero plays the lead role with somewhat admirable coolness, being one of the few things that stands out positively here.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 38%

#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%

#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%

#1093 Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)

So, apparently Charlie Chan is some kind of mysterious detective that starred in various movies starting already in the 1920s. There was a 1973 movie release starring Chan, but the character really was passé already by the end of 1950s.

Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen kicks off with the assumption that the viewer is somehow aware of the existence and greatness of this character so much that it doesn’t bother to make any kind of introductions. Charlie Chan seems to be the somewhat of a comedic sidekick in his own film as the story concentrates more on his clumsy grandson, his fiancee, mother and the wacky servants of the giant mansion. Really, if you had to go through the trouble of making a yellowface movie, the least you could do is to make him the actual star of the show, right?

The movie was badly outdated as it came out in early 80s, and it’s production was attempted to put on hold by the Chinese-American protesters.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 17%

#1091 Trapped aka Baker County, U.S.A. (1982)

One of the more sophisticated examples of its sub genre, Trapped avoids many of the shortcomings of its rivals.

Sure, there are teens that go out to the mountains in the countryside only to get harassed by the yokels. But, there’s no gratuous nudity, the teens act smart and contact the authorities and even the backwood villagers are able to grow a conscience as the events escalate out of hand. The movie gains some unfortunate comedic elements towards the end as we witness deaths by getting speared by an antenna and the antagonist turning into something of a supernatural boogie man. The blemishes aren’t big, but still bad calls from the director that should’ve kept the violence as it was pictured in the movie so far: sudden and raw.

Considering that the genre is usually not my favourite one, I actually somewhat enjoyed Baker County, U.S.A.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 61%

#1076 Roar (1981)

It’s nothing short of remarkable that nobody got killed while shooting Roar.

Shot with wild cats of various species without any post processing or camera trickery, it’s truly blood-tingling to see the actors – including one young Melanie Griffith – taking part in wrestling matches with the giant beasts that in many case end up with actual bleeding wounds requiring medical care. As we’re accustomed to seeing online videos of similar play of Russian roulette ending in sudden disaster, Roar really keeps one glued to the edge of the seat.

Most people checking out the movie will do it purely out of curiosity to see the most dangerous ever filmed. And admittedly with Roar that a pretty valid reason in its own right.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 57%

#1059 Back Roads (1981)

Have a look at Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones having a good laugh in the poster here, as you won’t be seeing anything like this in the movie itself.

This is because most of the running time of Back Roads is spent with this odd couple of a prostitute and a deadbeat trying to make their way to California with faith throwing every imaginable setback on their path. While most movies out there try to balance between loss and occasional win, the constant failing of the duo soon becomes something of a predictable pattern.

The reported discord during the filming seems to work for the benefit for the film as the two leads often seem to show some genuine loathe for one other.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 59%

#1055 Nobody’s Perfekt (1981)

You remember those older, round backed, worn out VHS tape cases in a distant corner of a video rental store that nobody really checked through anymore? Nobody’s Perfekt is a typical movie you’d find stacked in a pile like this.

Three fellows suffering from minor mental defects wreck their car on a pot hole and take a revenge on the city hall, specifically the mayor. Their cunning plan includes stealing a cannon and hitching a ferry and they end up on the tail of a bunch of criminals doing a heist.

The movie is generally good natured, but mostly with witless gags with the punch lines visible miles away. A random customer checking out the video might’ve been somewhat content with the selection back in mid 80s, but unless you identify as one, it’s best to leave this one at the video rack.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 19%

#1048 The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981)

Western movies were quite a craze starting from the 30s all the way to the 60s, after which they fell out of style in the 70s. The Legend of the Lone Ranger was an attempt to bring back Lone Ranger – the masked wild west hero that made his original debut already in the 30s – to the Star Wars generation.

It did not go down well. But then again, it wasn’t a valiant effort to start with.

Cinematography wise the movie looks like it belongs way to the past and its clearly not positioned right for its target audience: The film is much too violent for the youngsters and much too childish and lame for the grown ups. It takes ages for the Lone Ranger to appear and while the movie picks up the pace towards the end, it’s just too little, too late.

80s-o-meter: 24%

Total: 31%

#1044 The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (1981)

The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper retells the story of a hijacker who escaped with $200,000 after leaping from the back of a Boeing 727 on 1971 and became a something of a media pet at the time.

As you’d imagine the movie takes quite a few liberties from the original story to beef it up, but even so the movie doesn’t really keep up the interest that well. The selected genre is a scoundrel movie that was popular at the time, but what’s seen here can’t really hold up a candle to the genre classics like The Cannonball Run, even if the movie was based on some real life events.

The charm that the movie might’ve had at some point probably had to do with being already familiar with the story. For the 2019 viewer, that magic is unfortunately long gone.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 38%

#1034 Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

If you have never heard of Indiana Jones, chances are you’ve been living under the rock for the last 40 years. The franchise and the line of movies, kickstarted by 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark have been featured so much in the popular culture, articles, studies and reviews that there’s frankly little left to say about them that hasn’t been better worded elsewhere.

A testament to the iconic status of the movie is how many of its scenes, gear and clothing have since had a life of their own outside the movie: The rolling boulder, melting faces, bringing sword to a gunfight scene and revolving airplane, as well as the fedora, bullwhip and the leather jacket are all immediately recognised to be part of the Indy saga as soon as they are featured elsewhere in the pop culture, usually as a nod towards the original. There are pages that list these references, but there are quite frankly so many that nobody can really keep up with them – and they still keep pouring in day after day.

Due to the massive impact the it had when it was released, the movie remains much more than just a perfect adventure; Raiders of the Lost Ark is the very definition of an adventure, and an undertaking still waiting to be topped.

80s-o-meter: 75%

Total: 96%

#1027 Lovely But Deadly (1981)

From time to time I’ve mentioned movies that take all the right ingredients, but end up making kind of a shoddy mess out of them. In the case of Lovely But Deadly, even the ingredients are a mess.

There’s an aspiring singer that gets into the wrong side of law and whose uninspired musical numbers we’re forced to watch throughout the movie. A lot of the scenes are either too prolonged and don’t really seem to fit together, and it all happens in an alternative world where everyone seems to be a two penny martial artist.

Actually, I take back a few of my previous words: Lucinda Dooling as the lead makes for a darn decent and radiant action star. Too bad she didn’t get to debut in a bit more decent movie.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 18%

#1019 Modern Romance (1981)

Modern Romance follows the on / off relationship between hemming and hawing urban male and her very patient girlfriend.

The movie is such a chore to watch. That overly neurotic male shtick might’ve been pretty cute back in the early 80s, but from the present day’s standpoint the cuteness just isn’t there. The guy tries to cover all of his bases while spying on her love, breaking up with her cold blood one moment and then demanding her back just to not to have to share her with anyone else, probably more sane person. Cute? Try possessive, smothering or borderline sociopathic. Nothing modern about it.

I’ve really dug Albert Brooks in his various roles throughout the years, but Modern Romance falls quite far from that list.

80s-o-meter: 73%

Total: 31%

#1009 Arthur (1981)

Watching Arthur, one of the most renowned comedies of the 80s after many years has been a mixed bag.

One of my favourite aspects of the original, the endless wisecracking between the drunk Arthur and his butler Hobson actually got old pretty fast this time around. But to my delight I found myself enjoying some of the other aspects of the movie I’d never noticed before, like Linda’s old man who at times seems to be the one most emotionally moved by the rocky relationship of the two lovebirds.

Despite all this the movie is still a delight to watch. Dudley Moore’s and Liza Minnelli’s witty, but genuine chemistry is one of the most delightful ones of the decade and very much the glue that still holds the movie firmly together.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 84%

#993 Dragonslayer (1981)

The eighties marked a huge evolutionary step for art of movie effects, that hadn’t really come that far from the stop motion used in the 1933 King Kong. And once that train started rolling we were presented throughout the decade with some absolutely mind blowing effects work pioneered and engineered by some very talented people, compared to which a plethora of the later cheap computerised effects have fared the test of time generally speaking much worse.

A great portion of this breakthrough is to be credited to Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), founded in 1975 to create the effects for the Star Wars movie series. Dragonslayer was the first movie outside Lucasfilm Ltd using their services, and the results are so stunning that one could argue the creature seen here is still the best, lifelike dragon seen on the silver screen to date.

I did not care for the sorcery bits of Dragonslayer much, but they do give a good opportunity to showcase some of the nice effects. The movie would go on to get nominated for the Academy Award for best visual effects, only to lose to Raiders of the Lost Ark – another 1981 title featuring the effect wizardry of ILM.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 71%

#989 The Devil and Max Devlin (1981)

A lousy landlord gets a second chance for life after he dies and makes a pact with devil to return to earth to sign in three souls for the eternal damnation in a stuffy old movie called The Devil and Max Devlin, starring Elliott Gould and Bill Cosby.

The landlord goes on to do a little magic mumbo jumbo along the way to help the victims get what they want, but later quite expectedly learns to be less self-centred and not to exchange others’ souls for his freedom. It’s a movie hard to stomach on its own right, but watching the Cosby play the machinating devil feels almost morbid given his recent sentence.

The Devil and Max Devlin is an odd move from The Walt Disney Studios; a misfire with really no apparent target audience to recommend it to.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 17%

#978 Carbon Copy (1981)

You read it in poster: The white dude loses his job, his house, his family, even his car. And to add insult to an injury he finds his long lost son who turns out to be an African American.

Except that the movie doesn’t really play out like that at all. Walter is actually a good guy who acknowledges his responsibility as the father, but is made job- and houseless by his wife and his boss who don’t care for having ethnic minorities around.

As good willing as Carbon Copy turns out to be, I really don’t know what its function is. Clearly, it’s somehow about the racism, but it doesn’t really address it in any meaningful way. The whole plot is idiotic and has more holes in it than Swiss cheese, no matter how hard the film makers try to explain out the situation.

I do have to admit that I didn’t hate the movie as much as it probably deserved, and it does wrap up kind of satisfyingly in the end. Carbon Copy also features strong, but a bit unrefined Denzel Washington in his very first feature film role.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 61%

#971 Halloween 2018: The Funhouse (1981)

Directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame, The Funhouse is a horror movie taking a place in a carnival during its closing hours.

Settings wise the movie is a success; most people who’ve ever spend any time in a sideshow or a circus can surely relate to the weird eeriness that seems to surround them. But once the movie is supposed to go into full gear, the movie loses its direction and wanders far into dullsville. Not even the (very expected) kills manage to make to show any interesting.

It’s only towards the last 10 minutes that the pacing gears towards an action flick, and the movie manages to redeem some of the interest and exits gracefully without the inept last minute plot twists that usually go with the genre.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 32%

#968 Halloween 2018: Student Bodies (1981)

Student Bodies is a spoof of the slasher movies that thrived in the early 80s.

It came to the party remarkably early in 1981, at the time when slashers were still arriving left, right and center for the next two years. Considering its early release date it feels surprisingly fresh, even more so than most of the movies it satirises. The humour is of the crazy comedy style with many loose gags thrown in, in the style of Airplane (1980). Admittedly many of the gags and jokes are snappy, but still rarely laugh out loud funny. There are a few recurring routines also that get old really fast, like the antagonist’s continuous heavy breathing spread throughout the movie.

One of the film’s best remembered character is the mysterious ’The Stick’ – a raw-boned stand-up comedian playing Malvert the school janitor – for whom Student Bodies remained his only feature film before his untimely death in 1989.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 52%