#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%

#967 Halloween 2018: Final Exam (1981)

Final Exam feels like two different movies merged into one: There’s a surprisingly interesting drama comedy about college life, believable relationships and the power of fraternities over freshmen – some above average slasher plot lines going on here!

Then, there is most a pretty uninteresting slasher haphazardly glued on the side, which to its only merit doesn’t directly copy any other slasher I know of. But, it does boost a pretty appalling antagonist and doesn’t really bring anything much new or interesting to the table.

Thanks to the some actual writing work and character development Final Exam ends up well above the usual soulless copy paste slashers, but most likely won’t please most of the horror gore hounds out there.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 47%

#950 Halloween 2018: Ghost Story (1981)

A club of four elder gentlemen – Chowder Society they call themselves – has been getting together each week for years to share fictive stories of horror. This year people around them start dying and it all seems to linked with something happened in the past.

True to its name, Ghost Story works out as a well told ghost story. There’s something timeless in it and the movie manages manages to keep the viewers interested and on the edge of their seats to see and hear what happens next – just like a good camp side spooky tale would. It’s a real treat seeing John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks jr and Fred Astaire together as the old gentlemen who share a common secret they’ve kept shut for the last 50 years. Especially Astaire wows in his last feature film, showing there would’ve been a lot of acting prowess still left in him after he’d hung up his dancing shoes.

Some might think Ghost Story as an old fashioned relic of the past where you can see the big secret coming pretty much miles away. But that’s precisely what Halloween sometimes needs: Some good old fashioned spooks.

80s-o-meter: 48%

Total: 81%

#946 Halloween 2018: Night School aka Terror Eyes (1981)

A killer dressed in a motorcycle leather suit and a helmet goes around decapitating young women in Night School, a bore of a slasher marketed as Terror Eyes on the European side of the pond.

Before I totally tear the movie apart, it has to be said to the movie’s defence that it does make an effort to be more intelligent than many of its contemporary peers. The characters are adult instead of teenagers, there’s paper thin layer of whodunnit present and the movie’s style resembles more of a 70s psychological thriller than your typical slasher. But the movie is just too tame and there is a very little horror to be had here, with only the few odd kill scenes offering somewhat suspenseful moments. When not being boring, Night School is totally middle of the road with none of the moments really awful – but not particularly good either.

Night School ends up being just plain dull, which is certainly a bigger offence than being bad in my book.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 22%

#943 Halloween 2018: Hell Night (1981)

Just when I was totally fed up with dozens of early 80s cut & paste slashers, along comes Hell Night, a horror movie that doesn’t settle for repeating the lowest common denominators of the genre, but mixes and matches elements from various horror subgenres to make for an atmospheric film.

Story wise there isn’t much new here; a bunch of teenagers are challenged to spend a night in a spooky mansion, and expectedly someone starts to rub them out, one by one. But beyond the dodgy plot the movie makers manage to make quite a lot of good decisions from a constant eery presence of an evil to the relentless antagonist wisely exposed to the camera sparingly, which no doubt works for the movie’s advantage.

Hell Night was categorised and underrated as a yet another slasher upon its release, but has been later rightfully valued as an above average slasher, perfect for that gloomy Halloween movie night.

80s-o-meter: 72%

Total: 82%

#941 Halloween 2018: Scream (1981)

Tourists run amok in an abandoned western ghost town, getting put away one by one in Scream, a sorry excuse for a movie.

What we have here is a totally effortless exercise that looks and feels like it’s been shot in a location in one day. It’s even bad in the usually poor slasher genre, unable to make any of the kills memorable. Forget about seeing some first class FX work here, due to the strict restrictions of talent and funds, what you’ll usually see is a take of an axe swinging midair, followed by a scream.

The scares consist of some very muffled and quiet dialogue followed by extremely loud noises that are enough to make you hate the movie, as well as its creators.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 4%

#939 Taps (1981)

Based on Father Sky, a Novel by Devery Freeman, I had Taps figured out before I started watching it: A movie about the youngsters in Military Academy where they obey the strict rules, turn loose in their free time and talk about girls and growing up. Some of them rebel against the powers that be, but in the end they are faced with a harsh situation where they learn all about the honour and end up graduating as valiant young men with tons of self respect.

How was I led on. And the movie didn’t stop there. After the tragic events the movie seemed to become a light-hearted coming to age story where the mischievous boys take a stand for their school and become a true band of brothers.

I loved every surprise the movie had to offer. Although I didn’t really score the movie high when first watching it – my bet is that the original novel still betters the movie – it did leave an impression that has stuck for days, and the movie’s value has certainly grown interest since I watched it. Timothy Hutton is a spot on choice for the upright cadet who takes the lead in the exceptional situation while trying to hide from everyone – including himself – how lost he really is. Sean Penn and Tom Cruise star in minor roles, latter of them showing some real, chilling acting prowess in the few passing moments he’s featured on screen.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 81%