#1370 Halloween 2020: Fear No Evil aka Mark of the Beast (1981)

Remember that class weirdo that never spoke to anyone and was just concentrated on some eccentric hobby of his and kept to himself for the most of the time. In Fear No Evil, that guy turns out to be the reincarnation of Lucifer, who then releases his wrath by raising a group of dead from their graves to attack a Passion Play organised by the local church.

Although the plot is nothing get excited about, the actual problems with Fear No Evil are to do more in the overall execution. I can see the concept working with more of an over the top execution with tons of humour thrown into the mix, similarly to The Return of the Living Dead, but with the dry and dodgy approach seen here, Fear No Evil ends up one of the bigger disappointments of this particular Halloween.

80s-o-meter: 35%

Total: 22%

#1355 Force: Five (1981)

Force: Five is one of those early 80s action movies that you should pick up on VHS. I watched the movie from a pristine bluray copy and the movie seems to have lost a little something in translation.

I guess this goes with all of the ninja type of movies, although Force: Five technically isn’t one. Led by the legendary kickboxer Joe Lewis, the movie follows a oddball martial arts special force put together to get rid of a religious cult involved in shady business in a faraway island.

I did not fall in love with the movie, but it did get into that cozy feeling of picturing myself finding this movie on a dodgy rental tape sometime in the 80s – and having a not too bad movie night with it.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 62%

#1350 Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)

New York of the early 80s was a hostile place with crime and deaths on the rise year after another, homicides peaking at 2000s at worst – and Bronx had a notorious reputation even for New Yorkers.

Fort Apache the Bronx follows the everyday life of two cops, one veteran and and his younger partner in one particularly colorful precinct in Bronx. Officer Murphy – played by Paul Newman – is disillusioned and nihilistic on the surface, but always shows a great sense of discretion and ingenuity when defusing situations, with a confidence that only having a good understanding of (and affection for) the community for many years can bring.

Fans of Paul Newman will be at home with the movie as Fort Apache the Bronx showcases Newman at his very peak. The way the movie shows the life of a cop in a realistic fashion was new and fresh at the time (and it still holds up surprisingly well), but the 70s heritage of cinema is strong with the movie – especially in the way its actions scenes are shot.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 70%

#1342 Eyewitness aka The Janitor (1981)

Very interesting cast of super talented William Hurt, gorgeous Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Plummer, James Woods and Morgan Freeman star in little known early 80s murder thriller Eyewitness that was originally planned for release as The Janitor, but after lousy initial box office feedback the name was changed.

I’ve always mixed up this movie with the 1987 Broadcast News – William Hurt’s other movie involving TV reporters – and Eyewitness turned out to be completely different from what I was expecting – both in good and in bad.

The plotline has far too many coincidences to make it really believable, and Hurt’s poetic janitor character also seems quite far fetched and theatrical choice. The movie is quite watchable though and the end showdown is both thrilling and uniquely something I can’t remember seeing before.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 70%

#1309 Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1981)

Now, it’s true that Anna Emmaline McDoulet – known as Cattle Annie – and Jennie Stevenson aka Little Britches were two teenage girls that toured around in Oklahoma, following the Doolin-Dalton gang and earning their living stealing horses and selling booze to the native American tribes.

But the movie gets wrong pretty much everything else, and Cattle Annie and Little Britches is a very typical western that demonises the law enforcers, celebrates their death, glorifies the criminals and draws a romantic and a mind-numbingly naive picture of the life of the outlaws.

The only upside of the movie is the Cattle Annie character, played by Amanda Plummer (of the later Pulp Fiction fame) with the look and feel of a human tumbleweed.

80s-o-meter: 10%

Total: 8%

#1307 Polyester (1981)

Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead), one of 80s most famous drag acts plays an overweight housewife married to a pig of a man, gets tortured by every member of her family, and then her life gets worse, and worse and worse and worse .. until the the end credits roll.

Everything in the movie is targeted to be kitsch, which it pulls off, especially visually. Equally kitsch is the inclusion of Odorama, a card included in the theatrical showings of the movie that people get prompted to scratch and smell to get different smells to match with what’s seen on the screen.

Similarly to the Lust in the Dust – another comedy starring Divine – the humour in Polyester completely escapes me, although here I can see and kind of appreciate what they were trying to achieve with the approach. While I usually appreciate weirdness and trash in a movie, I still expect it to evoke some kind of feeling, be it repulsion, curiosity, joy or sadness.

Polyester did none of this for me.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 27%

#1299 Zoot Suit (1981)

Zoot Suit is the lavish and showy outfit with high-waist, wide-legged trousers and a ridilously long coat with wide, padded shoulders, coupled with a overlong watch chain dangling below the knee, and worn mostly by the youngsters of African-American, Latino, Italian American, and Filipino descent in the 1940s. What makes Zoot Suit interesting is its rebellious statement of self expression and the showiness of it by using excessive amount of materials, making them a luxury items and the way to show the neighbourhood (and the ladies) how much of a cool cat you were.

This is where the interesting part of Zoot Suit ends. The movie itself is an adaptation of a 1979 musical of the same name with possibly the worst music I’ve heard and the movie itself is shot with theatrical setting as if it was a play, likely to underline the fairy tale like nature of the movie, but to me it just did not work, give a take a few scenes. What worked though was the narrator and the ’Zoot Suit Spirit’ played by Edward James Olmos.

Like most of the musicals, Zoot Suit has a limited, but die hard fan base that rates it up there with the actual musical timeless classics.

80s-o-meter: 3%

Total: 18%

#1273 Shock Treatment (1981)

A spiritual sequel to the 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment marches similar kind of bizarre imagery and zany characters on screen, but falls short every way our heads RHPS managed not to, despite its unorthodox setup.

Placed on a set of a TV show/hospital the music remains the only good point in Shock Treatment – and the music is not very good.

80s-o-meter: 50%

Total: 2%

#1270 Bustin’ Loose (1981)

Many of the 80s movies still feel fresh and topical, while others have it quite badly, and Richard Pryor’s Bustin’ Loose definitely falls into the latter category.

Not only does Bustin’ Loose feel badly aged, but it also has some questionable aspects to it. Like when Pryor’s small-time conman arranges a strip poker session with a bunch of 12-year-olds, and later physically attacks one of the kids after losing his temper.

I never was a fan of priors movie work – excluding Brewster’s Millions and the brilliant See No Evil, Hear No Evil – and the much outdated Bustin’ Loose is not going to change that.

80s-o-meter: 60%

Total: 33%

#1239 ‎Only When I Laugh (1981)

The snappy dialogue and the way that the characters throw the wit around in Only When I Laugh is charming at first but soon starts to feel much too theatrical.

But where the movie succeeds is depicting an alcoholic. We are right there with her daughter charmed by Georgia, a recovering alcoholic thespian, and believing every word she says. But as anyone who’s ever been close to an alcoholic, it’s walking on egg shells and the facade they can put up can often look pristine outside – so good that it may fool even the alcoholic herself.

Only When I Laugh is not a bad concept – it’s filled with undeniable talent – but as a movie it’s executed in a way that makes watching much more of a chore than it needed to be.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 58%

#1234 Ragtime (1981)

My general dislike for period pictures is probably well known for any regular visitor; I often find them either unimaginative projects that rely much too heavily on just the nostalgia, or are annoyingly pretentious.

Ragtime surely has all the warning signs all over it it – starting with its name – and begins as a snore fest, but as soon as the first of the many violent outbursts of the movie take place it soon occurred to me this was not your average period picture. After introducing an interesting array of upper class white characters Ragtime concentrates on telling a story of a black piano player who gets vengeful after denied justice after getting insulted and harassed by racist voluntary firemen, starting a crusade that soon escalates out of hand.

Directed by Miloš Forman and based on E. L. Doctorow’s book of the same name, Ragtime ends up one of the best period picture thrillers in my book

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 91%

#1185 Halloween 2019: The Nesting (1981)

A woman suffering from nervous breakdown rents an old house where both the staff and the clientele of an old brothel appear haunting at night in The Nesting, a pretty flimsy attempt at horror.

The high level of unrealistic, supernatural nonsense presented in The Nesting does not pay off at all as it does not provide any scares, nor does it make for an interesting mystery story.

80s-o-meter: 57%

Total: 37%

#1183 Halloween 2019: Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

The prize for the most positive surprise of this Halloween goes once again to a made-for-TV movie.

Unlike the contemporary slashers, being a TV movie Dark Night of the Scarecrow can’t rely on gore or nudity so it has to make up for it with smart editing, suspense and atmosphere.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is not particularly 80s horror movie, owing much more the classic black and white scary stories – but it stands out in a positive way for that very reason.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 83%

#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%